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5 Best Google Maps APIs

Unleash the best APIs to add more power and functionality to Google Maps


Static Maps API
Embedding the full Google Maps framework into your website puts a lot of unnecessary strain onto your visitor’s computers, as loading the classes can take some time on slower PCs or tablets. Maps generated via the Static Maps API are delivered as bitmap tiles; the URLs can be embedded into the src parameter of an tag. The API is surprisingly flexible – you can modify the colours used by the renderer, can add points of interest or change the type of map requested.

Street View Image API
The Street View Image API is to panoramas what the Static Maps API is to traditional maps. Developers can use this interface in order to obtain street view information via an tag, bypassing the normally required JavaScript capability of the browser. Using the service is as easy as constructing a ‘fitting’ URL, as shown in the feature code on the website. The result of this request is shown in the image on the right.

Google Places API
Google’s purchase of services such as Zagat has provided the search engine with a large database of restaurants, stores and other utilities. The Google Places API can be used to discover more about nearby or far-away locations, with results being broken down into categories and filtered by price or rating. If your website is based on the JavaScript API, meddling with the JSON values returned from this API is superfluous, as an add-on called Places Library is provided for your convenience.

Directions API
Finding out how to get from A to B can be an algorithmically daunting task, which furthermore requires the presence of vector data. As Google’s system is completely bitmap based, the search engine vendor was forced to provide developers with a different way to access routing information. The Directions API returns a JSON object that contains data concerning the individual waypoints, which need to be crossed in order to reach the intended target.

WeatherLayer API
Users planning a trip can benefit a lot from weather information. Google has partnered up with the well-known service to provide users of its JavaScript API with an extra feature that informs customers about rain, fog and snowstorms. Maps can be combined with small icons with further information, which reveal a four-day forecast and a wind speed prediction when clicked. Using these features requires you to declare in the libraries parameter.