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Garmin, MapQuest offer interfaces

Garmin offers some APIs so Web sites and its GPS units can communicate, while MapQuest announces a beta version of an ActionScript interface for Flash fans.

Garmin and MapQuest want others to share the geospatial wealth.

Garmin's GPSmap 60Cx
Garmin's GPSmap 60Cx Garmin

In conjunction with the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, Calif., both companies on Tuesday announced moves to share application programming interfaces (APIs) that let programmers take advantage of their products. For years, products or service APIs were often kept secret, but nowadays it's vogue for companies to share them in an attempt to become a vital part of a larger ecosystem.

Garmin, which makes GPS (Global Positioning System) devices that tell people where they are, announced a number of free and licensed APIs that permit sophisticated interactions between Web sites and GPS devices. For example, a hiker can upload GPS data to a Web site to plot travels on a map, or a geocaching enthusiast can download locations to scout out. Those and other interfaces are at a new developer-oriented Garmin Web site.

Meanwhile, MapQuest released a beta version of an API to let programs written in Adobe ActionScript take advantage of MapQuest's online mapping. The widely used Flash technology, as well as its new Apollo technology, both use ActionScript, as does Adobe's Flex software for developing Flash software.

To show what the software can do, MapQuest posted some demonstrations on its Web site.