MappedUp takes the form of a free Screensaver, active desktop, or website widget that displays items from RSS news feeds overlayed geographically on a world map in real time.

The news items are shown as either clickable bubbles or little dots that light up on the map itself and display a tooltip/popup window when moused over (check it out in action here).

I have never been one to seek out screensavers, but every once in a while I find a cool and/or interesting one that I like, and MappedUp for me falls in that category.

Note that while the screensaver is only one of three of this program’s incarnations, I did try the active desktop part but it proved rather impractical, while the flash widget, though very interesting, nonetheless needs to be more configurable. Here are some notes:

  • This program does not function as an RSS reader and, at least at this point in its development, does not allow you to directly define your own custom RSS feeds. Instead it allows you to choose up to 5 of its pre-defined RSS feeds as well as up to 5 general tags/categories (e.g. News, Technology, Internet, etc.) You can easily submit a feed to be included in their feeds list, though.
  • The active desktop component: this displays the interactive MappedUp world map (and clickable RSS events) as your desktop wallpaper; however it unfortunately takes precedence over and disallows the windows right-click context menu. I also found that I was unable to drag and select files on the desktop anymore, and promptly uninstalled it.
  • The screensaver: this one is my favorite; allows you to use the mouse to interact with the map without closing down the screensaver (press any key on the keyboard to dismiss the screensaver). Looks really cool.
  • The website widget: while this is a great idea, I would only consider using it on my site if I had complete freedom to define the 40+ RSS feeds from freeware sites and tech blogs that I subscribe to (and not have to default to their own technology category and/or feeds). This would probably make for a very interesting value added element on the site that people might actually seek out. They offer full-scale and reduced scale versions for you to choose from at this point.
  • You will need to set up an account at the MappedUp website in order to use the service.

This program scores high in the coolness department. It is more of a toy than a tool to deliver information at your fingertips, but why not? Whether as a screensaver or embedded in your website its value comes from its theatrical function or as a design element. It is extremely well implemented.

Version tested: 0.9 beta

Compatibility: Windows, Mac.

Go to the download page to get the latest version (approx 1.95 megs for the Screensaver, 1.3 megs for the Active Desktop). Also visit the program home page.