updated 6/30/2005 5:42:02 PM ET 2005-06-30T21:42:02

Google is throwing the doors open on the technology some well-meaning hackers have been using to create applications that build on the search engine's mapping service.

Google announced Wednesday that it has begun sharing the technology with outside Web developers.

For months, a growing number of programmers has been using Google's mapping technology to graphically illustrate vital information that might otherwise be ignored or misunderstood.

These hackers, who until Wednesday were violating Google's service agreement, built Web sites such as Chicagocrime.org, which overlays Chicago Police Department crime statistics on a Google map, enabling residents to pinpoint specific crimes down to the street address anywhere in the city.

Housingmaps.com is another example, melding the technologies of Craigslist and Google to spot available housing in 29 U.S. cities. At Dynamite.co.uk/local, commuters in the United Kingdom can see their country's traffic conditions.

All the maps feature pushpin symbols that reveal text information when a user clicks on one.

"Google wants help these developers and others by providing support and documentation for their innovations," the company said in a statement.

Google's technology is free to any Web site that uses it for applications offered free to consumers. Mountain View-based Google wants the company's logo included on any maps the developers create, along with a link back to Google Maps. Google also cautions that it may show advertisements on the maps in the future.

Not to be outdone, Yahoo said Wednesday that it too will soon offer outside programmers the same sort of software information about its mapping service.

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