It’s hard not to love Google. It may be the behemoth of search engines, and not entirely honourable in its dealings with the Chinese government, but it does keep coming out with some beautiful bits of technology.

One of the most delightful - and useful - is Google Maps which, although officially still in Beta form in the UK, is already becoming a favourite with web-savvy travellers.

Go the homepage (maps.google.co.uk), type in a postcode, the name of a town or village, or even give it a complex request such as “Indian restaurants in Manchester” and Google will instantly draw up a road map of the area highlighting all the relevant information with little coloured pins.

If you think that’s clever, wait until you see what can be done by combining this mapping technology with other information available online. Since Google released the application into the public domain, software geeks from California to Calcutta have been hard at work in their bedrooms creating so-called “mash-ups” that allow all sorts of data - anything from gig listings in New York to commuter trains in Dublin - to be plotted in real time on live maps.

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