Look out, CloudMade. Google has just announced a new feature in its Maps API that lets developers control the underlying map imagery. Map Styling gives you control of colors and whether types of features are included in the map. Previously this level of map styling was only available by paying for underlying map data, or using the Open Street Map project that CloudMade is based upon.
Since Google put Maps V3 into production, this new feature is not available in the earlier maps version. The map embedded above makes the map a saturated blue color and removes point of interest labels and smaller roads. Click between the “Map” and “Edited” types to see the differences in lower Manhattan. Google has an example page with eight other styles, including one somewhat reminiscent of CloudMade’s Midnight Commander.
CloudMade has been popular with developers who don’t want maps that look like all the others. Now we’ll see whether being able to style the leading mapping API will bring them to Google Maps that don’t look like Google Maps. Although, users probably won’t be fooled. Even though your maps don’t have to look like Google Maps any more, they still carry the Google logo.