As the Google LatLong Blog reports, Google has added a new “show search options” link beside the main search box in Google Maps. This is a very interesting development for several reasons. It’s a pull-down menu that allows you to narrow or expand results for the same query and more easily discover non-traditional content in Google Maps.
The new menu allows you to see: everything, locations, businesses, and, significantly, user-created content. Here’s the conventional search box on Google Maps:
And here are the new expanded options:
I can now use the same query to more easily navigate between traditional listings for sushi in New York (“best sushi, new york”) and other types of content. Here’s the conventional view:
Alternatively, I can choose to see only user-generated listings for this query:
This was also possible in the past, but I had to scroll to the “see community maps” link at the bottom of listings in the left column of results. This change should give much more prominence to user-generated/third party content in Google Maps, which is one of the most interesting and valuable aspects of the product.
The Google LatLong blog also discusses different content types (images, books, video, etc.) that are increasingly being added to Google Maps and are more discoverable with the new expanded menu (expect the categories to be refined/added). Indeed, like Google Earth, Maps is becoming a kind of parallel universe of search, where results are tied to each place.
There may also be an interesting experiment going on here about how to parse or offer more search option refinements and views to users in a non-intrusive way. One potential way to look at this is as the “verticalization” of Google Maps.
Postscript From Danny: Hurray! This looks to be a big step forward toward solving the problem of finding community generated map info such as fire or disaster information, as I covered in my San Francisco Oil Spill Maps & Wishing For Better Community Map Search Tools post last November.