Google's My Maps - You're the Cartographer Now

Google lit up the blogs today with what it's best at: another brilliant and cool product release. Actually, it's just a feature addition to Google Maps called My Maps, proving that even the slightest of tweaks from the mother ship is enough to get Web users salivating en masse.

My Maps is worth the hype, though. It allows you to take any Google Map and draw on it, effectively adding "cartographer"—an occupation and, for that matter, word I've always admired—to your curriculum vitae. You can add placemarks (like little push-pins), lines and shaded polygons to your heart's content, and each piece can be fully annotated via HTML with text, pictures and links, which lends itself to all kinds of incredibly useful tasks.

I dove right in and made my first map this afternoon, which is an annotated guide to my lunch hour, complete with all my favorite midday dining spots (check it out here, and if you work in Midtown Manhattan, you'll benefit nicely from my little airing of secrets). As far as I can tell you can't collaborate on maps yet, but when that feature hits everyone in the office could add their favorite spots as well. Other uses are myriad and insanely practical—customized driving directions, neighborhood guides, anything—and each map can be saved and linked to from anywhere on the Web.

It's really amazing that it took this long for a service as practical and useful as My Maps to surface to the mainstream. Or maybe there were others? If you've been making custom maps since Google was in diapers, let us know below. And we want to see how you're using your maps—make 'em public and post the links below in the comments.—John Mahoney