Most of us will continue to use the big mapping libraries for standard jobs like showing street addresses. But what if you want to do something a bit different, such as change the rendering or fiddle with the layers in ways that the big libraries don't allow?
Tile5 can pull the mapping tiles from such sources as GeoCommons, then lay them out so that the user can shove them around just like the maps from Google, Mapquest, or Yahoo. But there are other opportunities: The animation operation can change any of the parameters of the display. This is usually used for panning across the map and landing in one spot, not unlike the sequences in the Indiana Jones movies showing the plane flying over the map.
There's a surprisingly large collection of pixel-level operations available, including the ability to tweak the colors and apply filters like the ones used to blur images or compute edges. The basic library is now several years old, but Jacob Seidelin continues to create examples of how it can be applied -- like this small Web application called Filterrific.
Mobile libraries and browser books
As the mobile browsers begin to dominate the Web, it becomes more and more important to package the information in a form that's easier to browse on smartphones and tablets. That's not so easy when the fingers are fat and the eyes can't focus on small fonts.
The iPad may be nice for reading, but its corporate masters demand a hefty percentage of the selling price for the privilege of being on the platform. A number of savvy programmers are writing text-reading tools that fit in the browser, allowing publishers to deliver directly to the iPad without paying the Apple tax or going through the Apple censorship gauntlet.
Treesaver creates magazine-like layouts that allow you to flip through pages of text and images the old fashioned way. The code is small -- just 25K -- and released under both the MIT and GPL license.
The Baker Framework is a similar project with a slightly different aesthetic approach. While Treesaver wants the text to flow into a convenient layout for the page, Baker assumes a constant width to make life easier for designers. Both of the tools make it possible to deliver booklike content directly from the Web.
It's easy to forget that cookies can store 4,096 bytes of data. You would never want to store that much because each cookie is bundled together with subsequent trips to the server -- that's why local databases were invented. Taking advantage of them is getting easier as new libraries simplify the details of interacting with the API.