Google Maps heats up dating game

Pairing search functions of Google Maps and a personals Web site, HotMaps offers a way to locate dating site HotOrNot subscribers.

Looking for love in all the wrong places? A new application powered by Google Maps and a personals Web site just might offer a satisfying alternative.

Dubbed "HotMaps," it allows users to roughly pinpoint where a subscriber of American dating site HotOrNot lives.

Once a specific location on the HotMaps Web site is selected, a list of markers will appear. These signposts will then denote where subscribers to the dating site live.

When a user clicks on one of the markers, the service fetches profiles, including pictures, from HotOrNot's database.

Created by programmers Jeff Marshall and Greg Lin of Frozenbear in the United States, the new application is one of many "mash-ups" that allow developers to create and map data using application program interfaces (APIs) that are publicly available from Google.

Mash-ups like these are emerging because a growing number of Web properties are releasing instructions, or APIs, on how to access their data. With these publicly available APIs--often published in standardized XML protocols--programmers get the documentation and tools needed to pull data from Web sites and to combine it with another information source to create something new.

In an e-mail interview, Marshall said he wasn't concerned with privacy issues or the application being abused by stalkers, as it maps only to postal codes and not actual addresses.

"I wouldn't want to pinpoint people by their exact address even if I could. I've read a few comments online about how this is the ultimate stalker tool. I think those comments are partly tongue-in-cheek, but even so it isn't really a very good stalker tool since it only groups people by ZIP code," Marshall told ZDNet Australia.

''I'm only showing people from HotOrNot that are in the 'MeetMe' section of the Web site--these are people that would like to meet people. So it actually helps since other people can find them by locale," he added.

Google Maps is currently unavailable in Australia. When asked if the company had any objections to the way its APIs were used by Frozenbear, a Google spokesperson declined to comment.

Brendan Chase of Builder AU reported from Sydney.

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