Posted by Mike Jones, Maps API Team

Here at Google, we receive a lot of feature requests - and it feels great every time we fulfill one of them. The ability to utilize the power of Google Maps from Flash is one of those requests that has been popping up on blog posts and other forums since the beginning of time (or more accurately, the beginning of the Javascript Maps API). Over the past few hours, I’ve had the enjoyment of finally seeing this particular feature request - a Maps API for Flash - come to fruition. Tiredness will grab me soon, no doubt. If you’re one of the first readers of this post, rest assured that I’m unlikely to still be awake: long hours have been worked; pre-launch nerves have jangled. Now it’s time to let our baby loose into the world and see how the developer community will embrace it.

So, what do I like about the API for Flash? Smoothness and speed are a big part of it. We’ve designed it so that Flash graphics can be used for each tile layer, marker and info window - opening up possibilities like dynamic shading, shadowing, animation, and video. When the user zooms the map, magnification changes happen smoothly and place names fade in. After the user drags a marker, it gently bounces to a halt. Generally, Flash allows for much greater embellishment, and, well… “flashiness.” I get excited just thinking about the creative ways developers might take advantage of having a Flash API for Google Maps.

What was one of our main design decisions for this project? We knew that version 1 of any software project is not perfect, so we opted to split the interface and implementation. As a result, you can build against the current version of the API, and as we add enhancements and tweaks, your website benefits automatically from each update. When you wish to take advantage of new API functions, only then do you need to download the latest API and rebuild.

What does it look like? We’ve played with it, thrown our ideas in, and also worked with outside companies to see how they use the API. It’s been a pleasure to see some of the demos that have come back. Here’s one from AFComponents that shows some of the possibilities:

When I first joined Google in Sydney, I got to hear about the experience of the Maps team when they first watched the traffic and the buzz build for the launch of Google Maps. Well, now I’m ready to experience that with this new API. Do send us feedback, we’re looking forward to it.

What remains? Over to you.