Personal Tech Pipeline | Wikipedia Meets Google Maps In Web Site
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October 13, 2005

Wikipedia Meets Google Maps In Web Site



Courtesy of InternetWeek

Wikipedia does a good job telling you where the Mentawai Islands are, but it isn't much good at giving you a map of the location. Placeopedia is looking to solve the problem by combining the online encyclopedia with Google Inc.'s mapping service.

Built by MySocieity.org, Placeopedia stems from the British nonprofit's mission of finding useful things to do with the Web, and then sharing it with the rest of the world at no charge and without strings.

MySociety.org is more active in Web projects related to government and community, but Placeopedia came about when Tom Steinberg, who founded the nonprofit two years ago, decided to do something about the difficulty of annotating content on the Web.

"I'd been frustrated for a longtime with annotating things online," Steinberg said. "It had been done so badly, that I became interested in building technology that other people could use."

What the volunteers of MySociety.org built was an application written in JavaScript and Perl that could take a Wikipedia entry and show its location on Google Maps, which offers roadmaps of locations; and Google Earth, which shows a satellite picture of the location's geography.

Placeopedia demonstrates the usefulness of the application, which could also be used to combine other Web services, Steinberg said.

Google and rival Yahoo Inc. offer application-programming interfaces to many of their services, so developers can use them in their Web applications. The idea is to build as big of a network as possible, making it more valuable to advertisers.

Besides Placeopedia, the annotation engine is also used to power another MySociety.org site, YourHistoryHere. The site searches for places, buildings or streets in Britain, and gives a bit of history, along with satellite views and street maps from Google.

MySociety.org operates on money from the British government's e-innovations fund. It's bigger projects include TheyWorkForYou.com, which is a non-partisan, volunteer-run Web site that tries to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their elected representatives.

And for those wondering, the Mentawai Islands are a chain of islands off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.

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