As part of the Geo-media session, Murata-san from Yahoo announced the release of "Pochi" a new mapping service from LatLongLab - a Yahoo! Japan unit whose stated goal is to "revolutionise online use of maps and location data".
Murata-san rightly questioned the usability of maps covered with icons, and unveiled a new, but somehow familiar interface - for Japanese users. The maps simply have text links on each of the properties - and clicking on these brings up various results in a panel on the left of the page. The resulting interface is similar to the Japanese local maps painted onto tin that can be found in neighbourhoods nation-wide.
For example, the Web 2008 Expo was held in the Consumers' Centre at the Shibuya branch of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce. Here is the link:
The location is in the centre of the target, and clicking on the text links does brings up the correct address and phone number, and supposedly links to Yahoo's many portals, although I didn't see these.
Next follows Yahoo search and Yahoo image search results. But that is where the utility fades....
1) The search seems to be simply keyed off the short text that appears on the map, as the results returned from Yahoo search are for actually for comletely different "Consumers' Centres" and "Chambers of Commerce" from different locations. :(
2) The text tags are mostly on buildings, rather than businesses, which greatly reduces the utility - there may be dozens of businesses in a building.
3) No zoom! Perhaps this is just because it's early days, and the coverage is still restricted to the areas around 24 of the main stations, but with maps now I instictively want a slider there! Without zoom they can't scale past their tin ancestors ;)
Interface-wise, mashing Google Street view up with this thing could be quite a nice combination.
They will have to do something about the usefulness of the information offered, but hey - an API is all the carrot you need (no sign of one by the way).
They did go to town on 中華街 (Chukagai - Yokohama Chinatown), though.