Long Live Mapquest!

Mapquest, the granddaddy of web mapping platforms, has been losing market share ever since Google Maps burst on to the scene. Google Maps’ tile-based (aka “slippy”) map interface and API caused many to adopt Google’s offering over Mapquest for integration with web sites as well as for daily use.

Mapquest has since turned over a new leaf and is offering a tiled map based off of OpenStreetMap data. Announced in 2010, the OSM-sourced map is just one of a few developer-friendly moves the company has recently made.

Closed-source Mapquest on the left and OpenStreetMap-sourced tiles on the right.

If you want to get started using Mapquest maps in your blog or personal web page, they have a simple to understand page on how construct your map using their Map Builder application. You can then embed maps into your WordPress blog using their plugin. If you want something more advanced, you can use their Open APIs to incorporate their OSM tiles and data into your application.

And if you don’t want to use Mapquest’s API as the framework for building your application, you can always use the Mapstraction library and still use the tiles and some of their other data services.

Mapstraction API

The Mapstraction JavaScript API allows you to easily switch between the leading web map providers for your application. This allows you to code for just one API but tap into the resources and base maps provided by other APIs.

From the Mapstraction site:

Users can switch maps as desired based on personal taste and quality of maps in their local area. Various tools built on top of Mapstraction allow users to easily integrate maps into their own sites, and configure them with different controls, styles, and provider.

One tool they have provided is an API Sandbox, allowing you to view examples of Mapstraction in action, but with the code exposed to you in an editable text box. You can modify the JavaScript and see how your changes will appear in the map below. This is a great benefit to those looking to tinker with the API.

Another resource for learning how to make web maps is Map Scripting 101 by Adam DuVander. The book focuses on Mapstraction, using the API as the primary means of demonstrating JavaScript-based web mapping technology. I have not yet had the chance to read the book, but once I do, I will review it here. In addition to the Map Scripting 101 book, DuVander also provides a simple, concise “Start Here Guide” for those completely new to web mapping. The Guide is freely available through the link above.

I plan to discuss Mapstraction more over the next few posts. With Google’s recent change to their API Terms, many are switching from the Google Maps API and Mapstraction will undoubtably play a role in some users’ transition schemes.