It’s probably a safe bet that large numbers of people don’t use many of the enhanced features and content layers of Google Maps. I don’t have any empirical data to support this assertion but that’s my hunch. Google may now be experimenting with ways to make some of those features more prominent.
Here’s an image that shows the buttons horizontally arrayed across the upper right of the map replaced by a somewhat more visual set of icons:
Here’s the current appearance:
This is just one of many UI experiments that Google is probably running regularly with Maps.
Online maps are in a more or less constant state of evolution given how competitive the segment has become. Bing and Mapquest are now regularly upgrading features. (Mapquest learned the lesson of complacency, as it was knocked out of its top position by Google Maps more than a year ago in early 2009.) And just last week Microsoft made some significant changes to Bing Maps intended to better expose Map Apps, among other things.
According to the most recent data from Hitwise, Google Maps is the top mapping site followed by Mapquest. Bing is number five; it was number 11 in September of 2009.
Credit: Hitwise, November 2010