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Google Launches Mapping Service 889

Alex Reynolds writes "The beta version of Google Maps is now online, offering an alternative to Mapquest with what some might describe as a very much improved user interface, offering a cleaner layout, drop shadows, clickable waypoints and keyboard controls that allow you to move and zoom the map. For IE and Firefox/Mozilla at this point (no Safari or Opera support, as yet)."
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Google Launches Mapping Service

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  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:46AM (#11605253)
    GoogleMaps + AdSense + Google Local = Massive profits for Google and a fantastic customer experience.

    I knew the folks at Google were smart, but...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:47AM (#11605258)
    They seem to have the directions to take on Microsoft
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:56AM (#11605320)
      Yea but they will never catch them if you use Microsoft Directions they will bring you to i90 North!!!! Well it seems they may have fixed it, but I remember when Microsoft bought out map-blast (my old favorite) I remember getting quite loss with their directions with them telling me to to take an even Interstate North (All even interstate goes East and West) and on the side roads they told me to go East when I needed to go west. And they for the longest time decided not to give Exit Numbers! But I just checked it out it seems that it was corrected.
    • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:59AM (#11605335)
      Yes, Google will soon become a search engine legend, after topping the chart for a long time. They have the key to success, let's hope they can scale this service up so we can all feel that feeling of elevation, like the one I got from playing The Silent Cartographer in Halo for the first time. This is a true landmark in search engine technology. I feel so giddy with excitement that I'm losing my orientation! I need the contours of a hot woman to offer me some relief!
    • All google needs for World (well... US anway) Dominance is to learn what side of the street the odd-numbered addresses are. Nothing like getting to your destination and finding strip malls on both sides of you and no clue which one the dinky little storefront is.
  • by Goose In Orbit ( 199293 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:47AM (#11605260)
    What about the rest of the planet?
  • And its only beta! (Score:4, Informative)

    by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:48AM (#11605268) Homepage
    I gave it a run.....Definitely better than mapquest....Map moves smoothly, instead of having to click and wait for a reload. Nicer interface....

    But how does it work?

  • by olafc ( 183227 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:49AM (#11605275)
    A preview of the world map after Bush his second term is over :)
  • Incredible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:50AM (#11605279) Homepage Journal
    This may be the most impressive web application I have ever seen. It performs like a local application, incredibly fast and smooth, but it's all coming over the internet and displaying in my web browser. I can browse around the country like I was playing with a photograph! The lack of Safari support is too bad, but they say it's coming soon.

    No, I have nothing constructive to add, just... wow!
  • Nice... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sH4RD ( 749216 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:51AM (#11605291) Homepage
    As said before, yes, it only seems to work in IE/Firefox (which is a shame). But, it is still easily the best map experience I have ever had. Being able to just type parts of an address into a bar instead of seperate boxes is disorganized, but quick and easy. And the balloon popup for current location is useful. The vector graphics are great, and scale to monitor resolution. I just wish NAVTEQ would add topographic information (for that matter, why does NAVTEQ do everyone's maps?). The zoom scale is much better than others, since it is live and smooth scaling. However, overall, the system doesn't seem like it would transfer to print well. I suppose the only way to find out is to try it.
    • Re:Nice... (Score:5, Informative)

      by lazytiger ( 170873 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @10:01AM (#11605774)
      (for that matter, why does NAVTEQ do everyone's maps?)

      Because Navteq has invested millions and millions of dollars into GIS street data. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just license it? There are only two big, big sources of street data out there - Navteq and TeleAtlas. Virtually every online mapping service under the sun uses one or both of those sources. So does onboard GPS software. Increasingly, so do printed maps. Rand McNally's new line of local and regional maps (the ones with pastel covers) are based on Navteq data. They even boast about it. Look closely at other brands of printed maps and atlases and you'll notice often they don't even make the maps at all - you're likely to see MapQuest copyrights all over the place if you look closely. And MapQuest of course in turn uses Navteq and/or TeleAtlas data.

      However, Navteq doesn't necessarily "do" everyone's maps. They provide the data and then the company comes up with a specification for linework, fills, etc. and adds or subtracts Points of Interest, boundaries, etc. A lot more goes into making a map than just the raw data. Let someone else do that.

      The mapping industry has become one big consolidated relicensing operation. If good data already exists, it's foolish not to just use it. Believe me, there would be a hell of a lot more errors if everyone was creating their own data rather than using one or two reasonably good sources.
  • Finally an online mapping application that gives us a BIG window...if they could get good vector based printing to work, they could do away with those multi-cd desktop mapping apps.
  • by path_man ( 610677 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:52AM (#11605301)

    Very nice interface, and certainly less cluttered than or mapquest.

    But best of all -- my new subdivision is on the map whereas it's absent on all the other free map services that the pizza guy, furniture stores, and other delivery folks keep trying to use because they've never heard of my street before.

    Google's "DO NO EVIL" company value really shows in this excellent service.

    • Unfortunately, Google is using a 3+ year old map of my sub division which has had roads moved, added and renamed. is up to date for me.

      Still, it's an amazing interface and I hope they get accurate info soon.
  • just 1 (small) error

    and it has a doctype ;)
  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:56AM (#11605319)
    [..]offering a cleaner layout, drop shadows, clickable waypoints and keyboard controls that allow you to move and zoom the map.

    Jesus! They have drop shadows! Sign me up#@!

  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Glove d'OJ ( 227281 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:57AM (#11605323) Homepage
    This looks very much like their application was java-based, and this appears to be browser-based / scripted. won a Webby [] in 2004.

    The click and drag for map movement rocks.
  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @08:59AM (#11605332)
    Your browser is not supported by Google Maps just yet. We currently support the following browsers:

    IE 5.5+ (download: Windows)
    Firefox 0.8+ (download: Windows Mac Linux)
    Netscape 7.1+ (download: Windows Mac Linux)
    Mozilla 1.4+ (download: Windows Mac Linux)

    We are working on supporting Safari. Regardless of your browser type, you must have JavaScript enabled to use Google Maps.

    We recommend you download one of the browsers above, or you can try to load Google Maps in your current browser.
  • Being a Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD user, I want for decent trip planning solutions - unfortunately, I haven't found any.

    Adding waypoint support to web-based trip planning software has been high on my list for all of the available services, so I was excited to see this listed for

    Unfortunately, I can't find how to do this even after perusing their help.

    Has anyone figured out how?

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:01AM (#11605349)
    Shorest Distance.
    Avoid Highways
    Use Highways
    Fastest Time
    Least number of turns (most direct route).
    Avoid Cities
    As well the ability to change your route on the map. Say you know that you cant take this road because of traffic today so you need an alternate route.

    I think those would be useful features for any map program. At best I have only seen some of them parttilly implemented.
  • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:01AM (#11605355) Homepage
    'Google kicks all types of ass; []

    Here's the kicker;

    * They used DHTML and Javascript

    * They did _not_ use Flash

    Go take a look and consider that...

    * No need to use the on-screen arrows to move around

    * Left click and hold can be used to drag the map

    * The arrow keys and other keys on your keyboard also work (PgUp, PgDn, +, -, ...)

    While the useful part of the map is limited to the 50 US States, Puerto Rico, and the populated areas of Canada, it does not have local boarders (drag from Alaska or Hawaii to Florida or the Canadian wilderness if you want). Zoom all the way in before you think they left something out. It looks to be complete.

    * The vector-generated maps are very readable when printed

    * It uses Google's Local search; if you haven't tried that, give it a whirl (example: Choose a location on the main page, click Local when the location appears, and punch in "pizza" or "atms". Not perfect; "beer" and "pub" don't work so well, though oddly "brew" returns some good results. :( )'

  • by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes@[ ] ['xms' in gap]> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:02AM (#11605356)
    1. only one continent
    2. Canada is empty (OK, not too far off)
    3. The center of the world is Coffeyville, Kansas
    4. Nice choice of map - see the distortion at the top. That's one thing you should be able to avoid online.

    Good thing it's a beta, then...
    • by Analogue Kid ( 54269 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @10:02AM (#11605779) Homepage
      4. Nice choice of map - see the distortion at the top. That's one thing you should be able to avoid online.

      The thing about making a flat map of a spherical world is that there will always be distortion. Either the relative sizes of landmasses, the angles between them or BOTH will be distorted. The particular projection used to create the map will determine how much of what kind of distortion the map has. Whether if a map is "online" or not has nothing to do with it as long as it is still a two dimensional representation of a 3 dimensional object.

      The most popular projection is called the Mercator Projection. This projection will heavily distort the relative sizes of landmasses, making whatever is in the corners of the map appear to be much larger than what is in the center. For example, depending on where the map is centered, Greenland could appear to be larger than the entire South American continent. The good side of the Mercator Projection is that it preserves the relative angles of locations. In other words, if 3 places all fall on the same straight line (around the world of course), then all three will also be in a straight line on a Mercator Projection map. For this reason, the Mercator Projection is by far the most useful for sailors and Navigators.

      Other projections such as the Lambert Azimuthal Projection provide more exact relative sizes of countries and continents, while horribly distorting the shapes of places near the edge. There is also an Azimuthal Equidistant projection which neither maintains correct relative sizes, nor angles, but has the advantage that all distances measured from the center of the map will be correct.

      As you can see, mapping online or off is all about trade offs. You can have correct shapes or angles or distances, but you any map will distort at least two of the three. [] []
    • by acb ( 2797 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @02:11PM (#11608464) Homepage
      I wonder whether anyone has told the Coffeyville, KS chamber of commerce; they could start printing Center of the World postcards and T-shirts, and rename the local diner the Center of the World Diner, and hopefully rake in the tourist bucks.
  • Missing save feature (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jvj24601 ( 178471 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:02AM (#11605364)
    I never use Mapquest. I use, and when I login with my yahoo id (started using it for mail, now I just use it for everything but mail because gmail rocks), I am able to name and save specific locations. So now I have all of my son's soccer and basketball game locations available for instant lookup.

    When Google Maps gets this feature and allows me to save locations linked to my gmail account, I'll switch over. The new interface in Google Maps is cool, but Yahoo maps (and Mapquest, I suspect) is good enough - especially for simply printout out map and driving directions.
  • by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:04AM (#11605376) Homepage
    Is if this worked on my Treo 300.

    The maps look so much cleaner than others I've seen, and might actually be somewhat understandable on the small screen. I really think it would be amazing if combined with Google Local, I could put in an address in New York, and "pizza" and have a map with the nearest pizza joint.
  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:05AM (#11605381) Homepage
    Now I'll NEVER get lost again! It's too bad the inventor of the drop shadow never filed a patent...
  • This is awesome. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DamienNightbane ( 768702 ) * on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:05AM (#11605382)
    I love the fact that the map loads nearly as fast as I can scroll. It's size is really nice too. Even better, the route marker it puts on the map when it gives directions isn't in the way, like it is on Mapquest.

    Add to that the wonderful UI, and I think that Google has a real winner here.

    By the way, all of you complaining that the map is USA only should note that this is only a beta. Chances are that when the full version is released, it will cover as much, or more, of the world than Mapquest.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:16AM (#11606330) Homepage Journal
      The image is made out of an array of tiles, each a GIF about 3.6K in size. They have URLs like this: [] As you pan to the right, each tile's src attribute gets the url of the tile to its right, which is of course already in browser cache. The rightmost column of five tiles is then fetched from the server. The very clever thing is how they make panning continuous. I have to look at their javascript to see how they accomplish it, it's quite an illusion. In any case, the efficiency of this approach accounts for the generous size of the map. and its responsiveness, which would be hard to achieve using conventional mapserver techniques.

      I've worked with developing web map services before. This approach complicates some things you might want to do, but is probably how you'd do it if you wanted a very fast, ultra-scalable service I wouldn't be surprised if Google, which in many ways is in the information storage business, has got all these tiles pre-rendered somewhere. Normally, you'd render the gif for the entire map in a temporary directory somewhere. Natrually this approach is more processor and bandwidth sensitive, but saves on storage. Of course, it allows you to do other kinds of GISy things that probably would be hard to do with Google's approach, but those kinds of things are relatively rare in this kind of application.

      I'd like to figure out how to map from geographic coordinate systems to the bizarre system they're using. Then I could use the mapping service for my own uses.

      Altogether, it's an interesting first effort. A rectangle drag zoom function would be welcome.
  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:10AM (#11605410) Homepage
    1) They won't take you the wrong way down one-way streets.

    2) They will get you to your destination instead of 95% of the way there.
  • by I don't want to spen ( 638810 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:13AM (#11605435) Journal
    I did a search for Apple Computer Inc Cupertino CA and I got an Infinite Loop ...
  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:13AM (#11605438) Homepage Journal
    So, who lives closest to the intersection of 2200 Rd and 4300 Rd, Coffeyville, Kansas? Just keep clicking the "+" button, and that's where the exact centre of Google's map of the US is. Just north of Coffeyville Country Club.
  • by Bohnanza ( 523456 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:16AM (#11605451)
    ..and it failed to notice the highway connection. It sends me through back roads by the geographically most direct route, then tells me that the 45-minute drive (I've done it) will take 19 minutes. It looks nice, but it needs some work. It seems they are ignoring/miscalculating travel time. Mapquest, on the other hand, gives me the route I've found to be fastest.
  • Lat/long please... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by javatips ( 66293 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:21AM (#11605494) Homepage
    The user interface is really nice and cool while being simple.

    However, like most other online mapping application, they don't provide geographic coordinates which could be used in a GPS device.

    Right now, I'm using using Multimap [] most of the time, even if their maps are a bit outdated, because they provide geographic coordinates.

    If they google where to provide geographics coordinate, at least for driving direction, with a way to download them in a text or xml file, it will beat the compitition without any doubt.
  • by Complicity ( 30481 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:25AM (#11605524)
    I searched for prostitutes near my address, and it came back with the following:
    • Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada
    • St Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church
    • Customers For Life Inc
    • Brantford Public Library
    • Children's Aid Society of Haldimand-Norfolk
    • Oxford Self-Help Network
    Google teaches us so many things!
  • Rubbish! (Score:5, Funny)

    by eric.t.f.bat ( 102290 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @09:26AM (#11605532)
    I went looking for some cities I know of in the US, and the coverage is spotty, to say the least. New York is there, of course, but I went south to New Jersey and Delaware, and both Gotham and Metropolis are missing. Duh! Iowa and Minnesota exist, but Central City and Keystone are missing. Boston and Seattle are there, but no sign of Hub City, Gateway City, Star City -- need I go on? Obviously Coast City isn't there, but there's no marker for where it WAS.

    Pretty shakey all round. Not impressed.
  • by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:04AM (#11606244) Homepage Journal
    I like that
    unlike mapquest (which encodes location in a cryptic
    way) you can link in google maps, directly to
    longitude and lattitude: example 2C-71.116 184
  • by Peldor ( 639336 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:21AM (#11606374)
    None of these maps have a scale on them. It seems like a poor choice to omit that.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:25AM (#11606398) Homepage Journal
    MapQuest's raw data has the direction of one-way streets marked. Google's presentation layer is much better, but MapQuest's data is therefore much more useful in navigating. If it's going only in the direction against you, it's not a street - it's a very dangerous wall. Maybe when it's out of beta. But I haven't seen Google make that big a change; their betas are nearly done.
  • Transit maping (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperQ ( 431 ) * on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:26AM (#11606416) Homepage
    What I would like is a better transit map searching system.. I'm planing a trip to SFO, and having a nice on-the-fly map drawn of different bus/train routes would be handy.
    • Re:Transit maping (Score:3, Informative)

      by Politburo ( 640618 )
      Would be nice to hit in two addresses in a transit laden area and get the best train/bus/other to take. NJ Transit [] actually does this.. you can go on their site and punch in addresses and get the nearest train/bus stops and the itinerary. However, it uses a drop box to select City,State. If yours isn't listed, you have to do a bit of research on your own. Also, you need a street address.. you can't just say "Take me from New Brunswick to Parsippany". The NJ Transit site also includes NYC Subways and PATH in
  • The biggest missing feature of all the mapping services I have seen is the lack of integrating mass transit.

    I live in NYC, and whenever I am going somewhere, I usually pull out mapquest to find the address (cross streets) and then sit there with a subway/bus map to try and figure out how to get there. Aside from the time problem (the time intervals that flights trains and busses leave is not as flexible as a car), this should be relatively easy to implement as the search space is so much smaller, and should be easy to acquire information about (as opposed to every backroad across the US). Just overlaying subway and bus stops onto the street maps would be a huge improvement.

    There are many profitable ways to utilize this:
    I type in to WA. I get all the options- from trains, busses, airplanes. This is targeted marketing nirvana, as unlike people who are searching for TV's just to see the latest stuff, very few people ask for driving directions "just to see how they would get there."
    Just targetting airlines and railroads, etc. might be too small of a market... So how about showing ads from places along the route? Driving from NY to DC? See the diners along the way. Taking the train? Stop at the pizza hut in Penn. There is alot of revenue to be made there.

    It could be argued that this is a small market. However, considering that there are 10M people in NYC alone, most of which whom rely on mass transit, I would have to disagree.

    • I would LOVE to see mass transit options integrated into these mapping services, but I'm not holding my breath. The obstacle as I see it is finding a way to keep route information from all the various mass transit services accurate.

      Driving directions are comparatively easy. Roads will either be there, or won't, and they change maybe once, twice a year at most? But train or bus routes can be different every day, or even at different times of the same day! Users would need to specify not only where they
    • I live in NYC, and whenever I am going somewhere, I usually pull out mapquest to find the address (cross streets) and then sit there with a subway/bus map to try and figure out how to get there.

      I live in San Francisco, and the TransitInfo Trip Planner [] plans trips, including connections between different transit systems. Here's an example trip []. TransitInfo was started by a couple of UC Berkeley students, who ran it on another student's server. Today it's funded by an agency called MTC, a consortium of lo

  • by Drakonian ( 518722 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @02:17PM (#11608525) Homepage
    My pedantry requires that I mentioned that "wherefore art thou" Shakespeare-style actually means Why are you, not Where.

    But assuming you actually meant where, what are you looking for? A long lost girlfriend, Timothy? Are you looking for a map to her new place? What about the restraining order?

The trouble with money is it costs too much!