Roughly last May at Google’s “I/O” developer conference, the company introduced an updated version of its desktop Maps experience. Since that time, it has been in “preview,” allowing users to go back and forth between the “classic” and new versions. Today, it’s coming out of preview and soon will be the default PC Google Maps experience.
Since its introduction, Google has been adding features, tweaking and adjusting the new Maps. Overall, it’s a more visually-compelling product than the old Maps with a wide array of enhanced features. Among them:
- Rich images, photo tours and interior photography
- Smart routing and directions to multiple destinations
- Google Now-like inclusion of hotel, airline and restaurant reservations
- Hotel booking
- Improved public transit data and routing
- Inclusion of ratings/reviews
- Enhanced personalization and social content
- Waze traffic updates
Street View’s Pegman was initially removed and then brought back. One feature of the old Maps that I wish the company would bring back is “search nearby.” That feature has been removed (from everything I can tell). I used it all the time; it was perhaps the thing I used most after the basic maps functionality.
Google Maps is indisputably the leading digital mapping platform and one of the company’s most successful products. Until Android, it was arguably the most successful product after search (save perhaps YouTube). And Maps has been instrumental to Android’s mobile success.
But while no one would dispute Google’s mapping dominance today, the company’s position is somewhat less secure than it was a couple of years ago. Competitors such as Apple and a new push by OpenStreetMaps threaten to chip away at Google’s mapping lead.
That’s good news for consumers because it will mean that Google will continue to invest in and develop Maps. Just bring back “search nearby.”
Postscript: As Matt McGee points out in the comments below you can actually “search nearby” by including the keywords “search near” or similar in the query. So, for example, I can now perform the query: “search for restaurants near the St. Regis hotel in San Francisco” and get results. However this capability isn’t obvious or intuitive (based on past experience with Google Maps).