New Google Maps Now Open To All, No Invite Needed

Google Maps iconGoogle has opened up the new version of Google Maps to anyone who wants to give it a try — no invite is needed. The company shared the news via Twitter this afternoon.

First announced at the Google I/O conference in May, the new Google Maps was initially available only to a select group of users that Google chose via an invite process. Invites aren’t needed anymore, but you still need to opt-in by visiting www.google.com/maps/about/explore/.

If you start using it, you’ll find a more immersive experience. The map fills your browser screen and business listings — formerly separated in a separate column on the left of the map — now appear right on the map itself.

seattle-restaurants

Despite the wider rollout, the new Google Maps still appears to be very much a beta product. For example, if you click on “My Places” from the settings tab in the upper right, you’ll end up on a page that looks like the old/current Google Maps. There are other features from the current version of Google Maps that are missing in the new Maps, too. And I’ve seen numerous mentions in my Twitter feed that many find it to be slow.

This probably explains why Google chose to share the wider rollout via tweet, rather than making an announcement on one of the company blogs.

Postscript: Google also made its announcement on Google+, where it also confirmed that the new Google Maps is still in preview (beta) mode with improvements to be made: “We’re listening and continuing to make the experience even better.”

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Colin Guidi

    Still wondering when they’re going to integrate the Waze acquisition… or if they will…

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  • Jerry Mead-Lucero

    The update is a complete disaster. It is a major downgrade. See the comments here for how angry users are about it…

    https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!mydiscussions/maps/XCSe9ruxo14

    I use Google Maps nearly every day, often several times a day. The new version made things really difficult for me until I realized I could uninstall it. Thank god we can uninstall it (for now). Let me list the features that were dropped from the new version that I feel are essential and make the new version a major downgrade of functionality…

    1. Loss of ability to zoom in and out with buttons on the screen. This has basically eliminated the ability to use maps single handedly. Zooming in can still be done with a single thumb tap, but you are forced to use two hands to zoom out now with either a double finger tap or the clumsy reverse pinch method. Is there a reason Google does want us to be able to use maps with a single hand? Safety perhaps? I find it extremely annoying.

    2. No more “Local” or “Places”. The replacement, “Explore” is next to useless. THIS IS PROBABLY MY BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THE UPDATE! I used Local all the time. I frequently have meetings in different parts of the city and look up restaurants that are close, cheap and open. So the ability to search for what is closest, what fits a specific price range and what is open at the time I am looking for it is really important. Explore has none of this. Explore shows you what resturants Google apparently wants you to go to. It will list three or four restaurants that are a mile away from you before showing you the one down the block (if they show it at all). And their is no way to look for restaurants in a specific price range or that are open when you are looking for them (this is an issue late at night or early in the morning). So now I am stuck with being directed to the overpriced place that is much further away and just closed a half hour ago, instead of the cheap place that is still open down the block. I have to think that there must be some financial incentive for Google to direct you to certain places and strip away your ability to search on important criteria like price and hours of operation.

    3. No more “my maps”. I create maps on Google all the time. I use it as part of my job. You can no longer access them on the new version.

    4. Navigation no longer accessible as a stand alone app and less like a true GPS device for you car. No traffic map or indicator light. No easy way to look at alternate routes. No way to select for things like gas stations to be visible. Again, no zoom in or out buttons to allow for single handed use. No option to select to avoid tolls!!! Really! Why remove this? The old navigation allowed you to select to avoid tolls and highways. Very useful. Gone in update. You can’t tell it to show gas stations along the route in navigation anymore but it shows you every church, park, museum along the way. I don’t need that info but the gas stations are helpful. Often does not show the names of streets you are crossing until you are on top of the street. I like to know the street before I get there, not after I have already crossed it. Generally does not show lots of street names that show up fine in the old version. Why would Google do this? Pressure from companies like Garmin etc.? Google was kicking their butts, since why would someone buy a GPS device for your car when your phone with Google maps worked just as good if not better. I wonder if Google was facing some heat from other companies or perhaps from those concerned about the safety of using navigation while driving and so decide to strip down and scale back the quality of their navigation capabilities. This is a real shame.

    5. Various functions hidden away behind menus instead of easily accessible on the screen. In the previous version things like zooming in and out, accessing layers, going to navigation, local, getting directions, was all easily accessible with a single thumb tap from the main maps screen. No longer. Now you have to dig through menus for what functions that are left.

    6. No longer integrated easily with your contacts addresses or with address in your calendar. For instance, you can no longer save a searched for address to your contacts.

    7. Offline maps is hidden away but still there. But you can’t select as easily what area to save or know ahead of time how big the saved map will be.

    8. No way to ask for directions in navigation that avoid tolls.

    They have removed other features too like Latitude and terrain maps, but I never used them so that does not effect me, but I imagine it is effecting others.

    Google, why do this? Do you field test this stuff before releasing it? I got to think if you did the drawbacks of the downgrade would be obvious. Did you feel you were giving away too much functionality free in the past? Are you planning on charging down the road to return certain functions? I have heard that functionality was sacrificed for aesthetics and that people like the look of the new version better. PLEASE Google, don’t go the Apple route of aesthetics over functionality. Who cares what it looks like if you can’t do what you need to do with it. I would much rather have a car with a beat up body but a brand new engine than a car with a restored body but an engine that I can’t depend on to get me where I am going. Remember, Apple came to you when their maps turned out to be crap. Don’t become like them.

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