Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Yahoo! Maps: Chooses Flashy Flex

Category: Mapping, Showcase

Yahoo! Maps has relaunched, and it looks a lot like Google Maps.

The interesting decision is that they opted to use Flash, and Flex on the backend.

This will probably add more to the “Flash vs. Ajax vs. Flash is part of Ajax” debate :)

View Source

If you take a peak at some of the source you will see that there is a lot of traditional JavaScript going on here, not just one large Flash application.

Some people are saying “they handle the back button, which Ajax can’t do” which is of course a myth.

Definitely some nice work, but if you are Google (and, you have to be pretty flattered that your app has been copied yet again, with just a few tweaks here and there.

The APIs

Simon Willison of Yahoo! has written a nice blog entry that discusses the new APIs that Yahoo! has released for the new maps application.

This is obviously important, as the mashup side of Google Maps exploded.

It is also great that there are both Ajax and Flash APIs.

    Flash-ActionScript API,
    for embedding maps in your Flash applications. When you think about the
    number of talented Flash developers out there for whom an Ajax toolkit
    is of little interest, the potential for innovation here is enormous.
    Not to mention that custom vector overlays of map information are far
    better suited to Flash than to JavaScript.
  • Flash-JavaScript API,
    for embedding Flash maps within normal pages and driving them from
    regular JavaScript. You can also drop custom Flash widgets and markers
    in to the page from this API just by providing the URL of a SWF file,
    which should allow ActionScript programmers to achieve virtually
    anything they can imagine.
  • Flex API,
    for adding maps to Flex applications. I’m don’t know too much about
    Flex (which is billed by Macromedia as an “enterprise” development
    tool), but the syntax example is pretty compelling: <yahoo:YahooMap id="myMap" width="550" height="400" zoomLevel="3" latitude="37.77159" longitude="-122.401714" />
  • Don’t like Flash? There’s an Ajax JavaScript API as well, no Flash required. Create pannable, zoomable maps, drive them from JavaScript and add custom markers to them.

Zimbra weighs in on their experience integrating with Y! Maps:

The new Y! api is much better (than the old Y! api). It offers integrated geocoding and the ability to request a map image only. This worked perfect for our needs. What took 30+ lines to do in Google Maps we were able to do in less than 10. It also meant only one webservice call vs. two for Goggle(geocode + display map). To top it off the Y! api requires a static app id rather than the domain locked api keys that the Google api uses. This makes a huge difference for Zimbra since our server will be deployed with many different domains.


Posted by Dion Almaer at 11:31 pm

3.4 rating from 20 votes


Comments feed

I’m sure they’re flattered, since they invented Ajax and they invented maps.

There are many parts of this that squish Google like a bug, local search integration and the minimap in the upper right corner to name two.

Comment by Jeffrey McManus — November 2, 2005

Cracks me up when Yahoo employees take the time to post comments on blogs to defend Yahoo software (while not disclosing they work for Yahoo).

Are you guys so insecure?

Comment by x — November 3, 2005

Jeffrey –

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some nice features here, and there is nothing wrong with embracing and extending. Microsoft has been great at this :)

I don’t think I said that Google invented Ajax or Maps, but you have to admit that there is a bit of a resemblance between Y! and Google Maps?

I think that you guys (Yahoo) are doing great things, especially recently (e.g. mail).


Comment by Dion Almaer — November 3, 2005

Just to throw one more in the ring:

While I seriously doubt that Google actually copied it, we bet Google by almost half a year with launching (featuring a working back button and “hybrid mode” from the start)

Full Disclosure: I led the project. So I feel very flattered today :-)

Comment by Bernhard Seefeld — November 3, 2005

I think the reason why the maps themselves look like Google’s is because they seem to be licensing them from the same source (Navteq).

The move/zoom performance is horrible on my Linux + Firefox box. Google maps is extremely fast and smooth compared to Yahoo’s.

And Bernhard is correct– had a live version of Google-maps like functionality before Google maps came around. Google wasn’t the innovative one in that sense.

Comment by Jon — November 3, 2005

The big story here for you guys should be the awesome APIs, which include an Ajax one for if Flash isn’t your thing (and an implessive Flash one that you drive using JavaScript). More thoughts on this on my blog.

Comment by Simon Willison (a Yahoo! employee) — November 3, 2005

I hope they didn’t spend too much time on this; it’s only a little more reponsive than the old Web 1.0 ( :-) ) version, and has many of the same faults.

Google’s freedom to click and drag should not be dismissed; that bit of user-controlled animation made it so much easier to maintain context … with Yahoo maps (old or Flex) you have to work to re-acquire your search point in the new map.

Comment by Howard M. Lewis Ship — November 3, 2005

“I’m sure they’re flattered, since they invented Ajax and they invented maps.”

They did not invent AJAX. Oddpost was before them.

Comment by Alex — November 3, 2005

I’ve tried using Google Maps to find restaurants in the map area but I have to keep clicking the search button, and even then it’s not providing many of the restaurants in the area. This Yahoo system has that done really well, with the map auto-updating to reflect restaurants. Plus, I love that when I type in an address, it tells me what business(es) are located there.

It looks like I’m back to visiting two sites when I need map-related info, because they both have advantages and disadvantages again.

Comment by Chris — November 3, 2005

I believe the new Yahoo Maps to be a bit better than Google Map. The fact that they use flash allow them to have nicer effects when you zoom-in… Also, you can zoom in and out with the scrollwheel (it’s just a bit too sensitive right now) which is great.

The little zoomed out map in the upper right corner is really a nice addition as it allows you to navigate a bit faster without having to zoom out the main map.

Another cool feature, is the directions, you can specify many addresses and you’ll will have instructions between each of them… This allows you to create an itinary more easily.

However, they do not have satellite view nor an hybrid view (which is a bit buggy in GMaps anyway – in my city, the street on the map and satellite are off by something like 10 meters).

One feature that still lacks from each of them, is the hability to download a set of coordinates (I know, they are other ways to do it) so they can be uploaded to a GPS unit.

I think that Google is very competitive, and Yahoo also… It going to be cool to see each of them to try to outdo the other in features :-) (and lets not forget Microsoft, they can always surprise us).


Comment by Emmanuel Pirsch — November 3, 2005

The guys at Oddpost were doing Ajax long before Google!

Comment by Jason McMinn — November 3, 2005

Really slow and laggy for me as well. I also generally find Flash a turn of in web pages simply because on my home machine which runs linux, it is usually really slow and prone to crash the browser.

Comment by Gnome — November 3, 2005

If you want to be finickety about it, Microsoft “invented” Ajax back in 1997/8 when they created the XMLHttpRequest ActiveX control. In any case, Jeffrey was being sarcastic in the first comment.

Comment by Simon Willison (a Yahoo! employee) — November 3, 2005

It is funny that noone knows who is being serious, and who is being sarcastic about who “invented” Ajax :)

I think that we ALL know that it was the ajaxians.


Comment by Dion Almaer — November 3, 2005

The best feature in my estimation: Live Traffic!

I’d much rather bookmark a Yahoo Maps page and see the route visually with traffic warnings attached than have to parse thru my local news site’s cryptic traffic listings.

Comment by MH — November 3, 2005

I bet Google is also flattered that everyone is copying their search box idea and their idea to write jokes on April 1.

Comment by Travis — November 3, 2005


Please can any one help me to manage a stick up footer on the website for IE 5.0 +. I Think its with CSS or Javascript r both.

As you can see 1 on


Imran Hashmi

Comment by imran — November 3, 2005

Jon, all: If performance isn’t great for you, make sure you’ve got the latest Flash 8 player — it’s WAY faster than the Flash 7 player. I know it makes a huge difference on the Mac, but I haven’t personally measured the player-version impact on *nix.

Thanks, Nate

Comment by nate koechley (a yahoo employee) — November 4, 2005

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