Earlier today (or yesterday, depending on when you’re reading this) the Great Google opened up their Google Maps application to everyone.

While it’s not necessarily news – Mountain View’s offered up its Google Maps source code for a long time – you had to be a serious code junkie to get under the hood and do anything useful with it. Now, Google’s made it streamlined, slick, and easy enough for anyone to use.

The new feature’s called MyMaps, and you can see it as soon as you hit up the Google Maps homepage. Right away, you can see some examples of just how versatile this thing is.

It’s very, very easy to make your own pushpin photoblog … just a few clicks and some descriptions, and you can make yourself a nice phototour of the Googleplex:

You can also overlay your own shapes, shading, and information, like this example of the state-by-state results of the 2004 Presidential election:

… and if you want to start getting fancy – and I know you do – each form can be customized with a built-in rich HTML editor, so you can make a self-contained travel-blog, with pictures, audio, and all other sorts of web goodies.

When you’re done, you can save your map as a static HTML file and link to it like a regular web page, or download it to your computer as a Google Earth KML file. If you make your map public, Google will index it and serve it up on searches.

Pretty neat. And it’s free.

Now you technophobic hiking bloggers have no excuse to start offering up Google Map visuals for your treks.

But if you want to have a bit more control over your data and presentation – or maybe don’t trust Google with all your data – Modern Hiker recommends Cyberhobo’s Hobomap WordPress plugin. With a little know-how, it’s pretty easy to get running. And his new version 1.0.1 is even more powerful and simple than the earlier builds.

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