Platial, a two-month-old upstart, lets people save personal places of interest to a Google map, and then share those landmarks with friends or the community at large, creating a kind of "social atlas," according to the company. People can also collaborate on Platial maps, which like many other so-called Google mashups are built on top of the Google Maps APIs, or application program interfaces.
Already, Platial.com has amassed 100,000 points of interests from its members, including home addresses, biodiesel fueling stations, and a map of all the taco trucks in Oakland, Calif. Diane Eisner, one of three co-founders of Platial, said that one of the most popular maps on the site points to the best street food in New York City.
"We call it 'auto-geo-biography,'" Eisner said Wednesday during a press briefing here at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference. That's because "the traditional views of place don't represent our relationship" to them.
The service is part of an increasingly popular Net practice of taking otherwise static data, mixing it with another service, and creating new applications, commonly referred to as mashups. Sometimes, even a spontaneous community forms around it. Housing maps.com, for example, combines Google Maps and local real estate listings from Craigslist.
Yahoo on Wednesday for developers wanting to build custom programs around its photo, calendar or bookmark tools.
Customized maps are even taking off inside game communities like "World of Warcraft" and "Second Life." Members of those multiplayer games have developed maps of the virtual reality worlds within them, according to Tim O'Reilly, the conference head who attended the press briefing.
One of the issues yet to be ironed out with Platial and other geographically focused sites is privacy. For example, a recent murder of a student in New York City prompted someone to anonymously post a map of points of interest in the case, including the locale of where the victim made her 911 call and the address of the suspect's house. In a worst-case scenario, stalkers could create maps of a person's home and everyday path.
Eisner said the company is working on this issue. For now, members can flag inaccurate information, which will be reviewed by an editor. And the company is hoping the site will emerge as a self-policing community like Slashdot.org, for example.
Platial has some impressive backers. It raised an unspecified amount of venture funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Ram Shiram, the original investors in Google.
The company makes money through targeted local advertising.
Other quirky maps on Platial include a trail of heartbreak around the United Kingdom by one member, and a map of grocery stores that support community-oriented farming in the San Francisco Bay Area. Another member mapped places where he or she first heard a piece of music.