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make your website location-aware

There are a lot of great services provided online that help make your website more locally relevant. Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and Bing Maps (Microsoft) make it simple to embed interactive and intuitively navigable maps on webpages. These maps can be zoomed and panned, dotted with single or multiple points of interest and explored in a map view or as satellite imagery (see map on left). Some of these services even allow you to view buildings and scenery from a virtual street view as if you are really there and walking about. This is the future! The maps are curated, annotated and kept up-to-date automatically by the services that provide them and are totally free to use. Maps are also available (though with limited functionality) for mobile websites.

map overlays

Maps can be overlayed with layers of real-time information from your website including dynamic routes, information points and links to external locally-relevant multimedia from other platforms e.g. photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube. Examples include local bicycle routes, garage sales, treasure hunts, train or taxi tracking, wifi hotspots, real-time traffic and more. Users on your website can save content on a map and make it available to other users in that area.

location translation services

Most of the services above also have a backend API component available for use. This makes the entire world of locations and addresses available for use by your website and database. Do you need to translate a street address into GPS coordinates so your clients can be plotted on a map? These API can perform this operation (called geocoding) for you. The opposite operation, finding an address or point of interest from any latitude and longitude (called reverse geocoding) is also possible.

case study - mygeni.org

Mygeni is a new content-based social networking site based on what you are interested in and which of your friends you really care about. Mygeni stores content items with a physical address where relevant. Since not many people think in terms of latitude and longitude (and these are what is required for mapping), I wrote code to interact with the Google Maps API and translate free text into a GPS location. Thus if the user entered a street or landmark name (correctly spelled or not) Mygeni was able to present valid location results for tagging the content on a map (see left).

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