Over at Vector One Jeff Thurston notes that the buzz on mashups is from developers and wonders if the maps are actually used and if people are making money with them. I’m going to defer the latter question as we head in our Location Intelligence Conference next week and will get some timlely input to that question. On the former I have some input. I know that for me, as someone covering this space, new features in a mashup are what are interesting to me.
However, with another hat on, that of distance runner, I can say (and have) that I use one mashup quite a lot: Google Maps Pedometer. Now, maybe that’s not a mashup in Jeff definition since it’s more of a “draw your route and save it” rather than a “put two or more data sets on a map.” While I like that site (and there are others like it that are well used in the running community) I have to point to the US Track and Field (they are the national organization for track and field in the U.S. - from Olympic athletes down to folks like me) app called “America’s Running Route.” Like GMaps Pedometer you can draw and save your routes, and you can share them with others. Is that used? Yes. How do I know? My non-GIS running friends use it all the time. Is USATF making money? Well, no, it’s a non-profit and provide the tool as a service. Another mashup I use all the time (and again, so do my friends) is the Mass Bay Transit Authority routing app. It helps you find bus/subway/train routes around Boston. It’s just great!
The difference I think is the “mashups for mashups sake” vs. the “mashups to solve a problem.” The former are “just cool,” the latter are used. Moreover, the latter are not, at least by me, thought of as mashups; they are just tools I use.