Google Maps personal version is going to be a huge change in the mapping market. It lets people annotate their own maps in rich ways, using the Web the way it was possible to use the application Google Earth before.
It’s not new in concept. A startup called Platial has been doing this already, and has created a terrific community of users (including my class at Berkeley this spring). What Platial does that Google doesn’t is crucial, however.
First is a “mapkit” that lets you embed a map inside your own site, the way YouTube does with videos and Flickr does with photos. How long will it take Google to do this?
Second is collaboration. Platial is all about collaborating. Again, expect Google to catch up.
Google is already ahead of Platial in several ways, meanwhile, including the ability to draw shapes on the maps. This is more like the geographic information system (GIS) look than Platial and Yahoo, among others, have managed to achieve.
Mapping is about to go super-mainstream, and we are just at the edges of understanding how powerful it will be. The arms race to offer us the best product is under way.