An all new Yahoo Maps launches tonight at 9 pm PST.
I spoke with Paul Levine, the General Manager of Local, Jeremy Kreitler, a Senior Product Manager of Maps and Local, and Diana Vincent, a PR Manager, earlier today about Yahoo Maps.
Unlike Google and Microsoft maps, Yahoo has chosen to use Flash over AJAX in building its new service, and they’ve added new features that are not found anywhere else. They’ve also done some things to reduce the hassle of creating, sharing and printing maps online.
It’s built with on the new MacroMedia Flex platform for flash, something we’ve been hearing a lot about lately.
Because Yahoo Maps is a flash application, it avoids the need for page refreshes changes are made to the page. A simple drag and drop module on the top right lets users move around easily (even easier than the great Google drag method). There are multiple ways to zoom into and out of a map, including using the scroll wheel on the mouse, or the page up/down buttons on the keyboard. The arrow keyboard keys also allow for scrolling off-screen to new areas.
There is excellent integration wth Yahoo Local businesses. Once a map is pulled up, a quick search, such as “pizza” pulls up all local restaurants. A click shows more information, and options to add it to the driving directions itinerary.
And this is cool – they allow multipoint directions, something Google and Microsoft don’t have.. add as many stops as you need, in the order you want, and Yahoo Maps will calculate driving directions for the whole trip. This could be really useful when house hunting, for instance. Simply add all of the addresses and get an itinerary.
Because Yahoo Maps is built on Flash, the “back button” on the browser still works (a problem with AJAX applications). At any time you can back up into older maps and the URL also rewinds.
Yahoo Maps requires the installation of Flash 7 or greater. 90% of U.S. and European computers already have it installed.
Yahoo has two flavors of APIs for developers. The syndication API is a simple way of bringing Yahoo Maps into a website in either Flash of AJAX. They’ve also launched a richer Building Blocks API for maximum flexibility.