Google Adds Neighborhood Search To Maps, Automated 3-D Rendering To Earth

Local search is coming to a neighborhood near you – literally. Google is the latest and highest profile site to introduce what might be called “colloquial” neighborhood level search into Google Maps. What it means is that people can now use popular terms and even geo-slang in some cases to identify businesses and points of interest in areas that otherwise might not register because they’re not official geographic designations.

Here’s the announcement from the Google Lat Long Blog.

As indicated, Google isn’t the first to do some form of this. Real Estate sites HomeGain and Trulia offer this capability and so do local search sites Yelp and Ask City. Yahoo recently introduced color-coded neighborhood maps (in SF and NY) among other changes and Maps upgrades.

Yahoo Local and Citysearch have long had neighborhood filters and newer local sites like and Citysquares, among others, are focused on “hyper-local” content, including neighborhoods. Yet the ability to make search itself more responsive to the way people actually think and behave is an improvement over historical capabilities.

Such improvements will likely accelerate usage of local search and, ultimately, offer better targeting to advertisers.

Google to accelerate 3-D on Earth

The Google Earth Blog points to a San Jose Mercury News story about Google licensing automatic 3-D rendering technology from Stanford University. The Google Earth Blog says this comes out of a U.S. Defense Department initiative, the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, but the project pre-dates that event.

Google has been relying on the Google Earth community (through SketchUp’s 3-D warehouse) to create 3-D models. It is unlikely that will end, however the automated tools will allow Google to “fill in” and potentially catch Microsoft Virtual Earth, which has an impressive array of automated 3-D capabilities and is able to roll out urban 3-D models rapidly and on a large scale.

While most of the public is largely unaware of 3-D mapping on Google Earth and Virtual Earth, there’s a bright future for these applications as broadband speeds improve and the Internet comes to TV. In that latter context, we might see their merger with multi-player gaming and/or social networks, among many other uses and metaverses.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Earth | Google: Maps & Local


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Rocky Agrawal

    Vindigo had neighborhood searching on its Palm app a long, long time ago. Glad to finally have it on Google Maps.

    The other part of my colloquial local wishlist: if a business is in a mall, tell me that instead of making me figure it out from a map.

  • darrinclement

    Knowing which businesses are inside malls is historically a difficult problem. Often, malls are even on private roads and so standard geocoding tools miss them because the street can’t be found.

    On the neighborhood thing – which is more valuable: ability to do a local search using a neighborhood name or seeing the actual neighborhood boundary?

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