Google Maps

Google Maps: Google Maps is a web mapping service application and technology by Google.

 What is Google Maps?

Google Maps is a web mapping service application and technology by Google. It is used by Google to power many of its other products, such as the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder, Google Transit, as well as the maps embedded on third-party websites via the Google Maps API. The application also provides satellite images that are superimposed by the maps. However, it should be noted that the satellite images are not updated in real times; instead the images are months or even years old in some instances.

How is Google Maps used?

When Google Maps is opened, it shows the user a map of the user’s country. The user can then either zoom out to view a world map, or zoom in to a particular location. The user can also search for a particular location. The view can be changed from a map to satellite images that also show the map superimposed on the images.

How and when was Google Maps started?

In March 2004, Google launched Google Local, which aimed to provide relevant business listings, maps and directions. In February 2005, Google Local was changed to Google Maps. Google Maps then started offering satellite images and directions in April of the same year. In the same month, it was launched in the United Kingdom, hence expanding its presence to Europe. In June, Google released the APIs for Google Maps, this allowed developers to embed Google Maps on many different kinds of mapping services and sites.

In April 2006, Google Maps was released for France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Google Maps then expanded to Australia in February 2007, offering maps, as well as local business results and mobile capability. In the same month, Google also introduced traffic information to Google Maps for more than 30 cities around the U.S.

Google then launched the Street View for Google Maps in May 2007. Initially, the Street View was available for five U.S. cities: New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver. By June of the same year, Google Maps got prime placement on the original Apple iPhone.

The next step was to expand to mobiles. In June 2008, Google released a new version of Maps for Mobile. This version introduced Google Transit directions on phones in more than 50 cities worldwide. In February 2009, Google introduced Google Latitude, a Google Maps for mobile feature and an iGoogle gadget that lets the user share their location with friends and see the approximate location of people who have decided to share their location with them.

In September, Google Maps got Place Pages, which developed a page for each listed business, point of interest, transit station, neighborhood, landmark or city. The page organized all the relevant information about the said place, including rich details, like photos, videos, a Street View preview, nearby transit, reviews and related websites.

October saw the release of Google Maps Navigation. The Navigation provides turn-by-turn GPS navigation system, including 3D views and voice guidance. Furthermore, the application is connected to the Google cloud, hence it will always show the newest map data and live traffic data. It also allows the user to search via voice or along a route.

In April 2010, Google incorporated Earth view in Google Maps. This allowed the users to explore Google Earth’s detailed 3D imagery and terrain directly in Google Maps, via any web browser.

In July 2011, the London public transit directions arrive on Google Maps. In October, Google incorporated WebGL into Google Maps to create Google MapsGL. This enhanced the maps with richer visuals and animations. November saw the launch of a new frontier for Google Maps: mapping the indoors. This update shows the indoor floor maps of malls, certain airports, etc.

In December 2011, Google Maps showed the 360-degree panoramic imagery of those areas in Japan affected by the March 2011 earthquake. By August 2012, Google Maps incorporated the schedules for more than one million public transit stops worldwide. In September, Google launched a new aspect. It featured underwater panoramic images of six of the ocean’s most incredible living coral reefs. Users could now experience these reefs without getting off their computer.

In October, Google played an important role in preparing for Hurricane Sandy. Google launched a dedicated Crisis Map for Hurricane Sandy. It helped those in the storm’s path prepare for the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Google Maps would warnings for the disaster. In December, Google Maps was available on the iPhone.

In January 2013, Google once again played a part in crisis management. During, severe flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia, Google Maps provided updated maps for the region helping crisis response teams to coordinate in the area. In August 2013, Goolge Maps underwent another update. This update mainly focused on aesthetics, and became more interactive.

How does Google Maps work?

Google collects data from certain agencies, such as the Census Bureau, from geological surveys, as well as Google's Ground Truthers, which are responsible for getting the Street View cars' tracks and imagery. This among other sources mainly provides the information for the maps. Furthermore, people and users can update the information regarding business, and locations in their vicinity.

All this information is uploaded to Google’s servers, where various algorithms are run to make sense of this data. The output is the map that is generated for the users.

What are some of the features of Google Maps?

The following is a list of features that are available in various countries:

  • Street maps
  • A route planner for traveling by foot, car, bike, or with public transportation
  • A locator for urban businesses in numerous countries

What are the some of the criticisms faced by Google Maps?

Many have criticized the fact that most of Google Maps satellite images are months, if not years. Hence, the satellite images do not reflect any recent changes in infrastructure.

Furthermore, a number of law agencies and defense agencies have raised the concern that terrorist groups or certain individuals may take advantage of Google Maps to plan attacks. 

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