The Web’s Most Useful Sites: Mashups Make the Most of the Web

By Ryan Singel

Mashups are the online equivalent of dunking a cookie in a glass of milk: The combination of data from one Web site with that of another is so-o-o much better than each is on its own. The best tend to use maps, such as one of the earliest–and still outstanding–mashups, HousingMaps. The site plots Craigslist’s homes for sale and apartments for rent on a Google Map and allows you to preview a listing by simply clicking on one of the pushpins. It was so good, Google hired its creator, Paul Rademacher.

Here are five more of the best mashups we found:

Pubwalk: This site combines bar listings and reviews from Citysearch with a Google Map. Each pushpin has a pop-up window with bar or restaurant information, including a rating and a thumbnail picture. You can use the service to plot out a bar crawl and either print out directions or see them on your phone.

Weather Bonk: Here you can see detailed local weather reports, traffic data, and weather cameras for cities around the world on a Google Map. While Weather Bonk is far from the prettiest mashup, the traffic data in car-centric cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta could save you hours of frustration, and the Web cameras let you see weather conditions from Seattle to Paris.

Pandora FM: This homebrew site allows you to submit the songs you like to listen to, through Pandora’s music categorizing and suggesting service, to Last.FM, a site that monitors the songs you play on your computer. Pandora is a fantastic way to discover new music: You first create a radio station of your favorite bands or songs, and then the service suggests and plays artists in the same vein. The mashup permits you to tag and remember the songs, and later have Last.FM play back just your favorites.

Google Transit: This mashup, cooked up in Google Labs, lets users plan public transportation trips in Eugene and Portland, Oregon; Honolulu; Pittsburgh; Seattle; and Tampa, Florida. After you supply two addresses, the planner will give you directions that combine walking, buses, and trains, and will approximate travel times and fares. You even get to see a handy comparison of what it would have cost you to drive instead.

Mappr: Hackers have done wonders with the open interface of image-hosting site Flickr (even building a Sudoku game). But Mappr, the most attractive of these mashups, lets you choose a tag and see the results plotted on a map of the United States using geo-tags embedded in the photos. While a little slow, searches like “beach” or “Route 66” show the hidden patterns buried in metadata.

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