Google Maps

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Courtesy communitywalk.com

Last year, Google began allowing the public to use its technology to create customized online maps, free of charge. Since then, tons of companies--including BT--and regular people have programmed "mashup" Google maps that highlight selected locations with teardrop-shaped markers and info boxes, often with addresses, URLs, phone numbers, and commentary.

Like bloggers, the mappers have interests that run the gamut. Maps may focus on bird sightings (geobirds.com), comic-book stores (hijinxcomics.com/maps/cbia), drink specials in Atlanta (atlspecials.com), strip clubs (stripclubmap.com), or New York City bicycling routes (nycbikemaps.com). Sites are generally produced by amateurs and are not comprehensive. Still, travelers may find them helpful; one, for instance, is dedicated to the most dazzling views in London (communitywalk.com/map/65).

The foremost resource for maps is googlemapsmania.blogspot.com. Plug in a topic under "Search This Blog" or scroll through the subject list on the right-hand column. We recently found maps with markers for golf courses, hot springs, maternity-wear stores, hotels in Rome, brewpubs in Oregon and Washington, Tokyo sake bars, favorite scuba-diving sites, secret fishing holes, and Chicago hot dog stands.

DIY Google Maps

Can't find a map for the topic you're interested in? Create your own--if you're a card-carrying techie, that is. The detailed tutorial at google.com/apis/maps assumes you know JavaScript, as well as the longitudes and latitudes of the places you want on your map (searchable at geocoder.us). MapBuilder.net is a bit less confusing, but you still need to know basic programming.

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