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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Growing List of Things You Can Do With Google Maps

Brian Ussery is director of SEO at Search Discovery in Atlanta, Georgia, and develops using Google’s tools and APIs.

The Google Maps team has been hard at work launching a number of new features in recent months. In case you’ve missed them, here are a few of the features available in Google Maps these days.

“Get directions” with Google Maps Street View

Google’s Street View was released a year ago and includes imagery for 37 major metropolitan areas in the US. In addition to the stand-alone version, Street View is now included in Google Maps directions. Street View directions make it possible for users to virtually tour new destinations before their arrival. Using Google Maps Street View in directions is simple: click on the “Get directions” tab and if Street View imagery is available it will be indicated by a camera icon and outlined in blue.

Google Maps StreetView “Get directions” feature

“Get directions" for Public Transportation in Google Maps

The Google Maps “Public Transit” feature allows users to map entire trips using public transportation and all within Google Maps. To use this feature, search for directions in Google Maps and if transit information is available it will be indicated by a “Public Transit” option in the directions tab. With this option users can get step-by-step transit directions in addition to transit stop locations, station information, schedules and more.

Google Maps Public Transit “Get directions” feature

Find Future Traffic Conditions with Google Maps

Most folks know about the “Traffic” feature in Google Maps but, now users can use Google Maps for information about future traffic conditions. To use the feature, click on “change” in the “Live Traffic” box near the upper right hand corner of your traffic map. Google Maps “Traffic” uses traffic data from 30 major US metropolitan areas to map traffic flow in real-time so drivers know what areas to avoid. Traffic conditions in Google Maps are denoted by color. Green means traffic is moving at an average speed of more than 50mph, yellow 25-50mph, red indicates traffic is moving at less than 25mph and gray indicates that data is not available.

Google Maps Traffic prediction feature in action

More “Photos” in Google Maps

Depending on the user query, Google Maps includes a “Photo” option where users can view geographically relevant imagery based on location and provided by Google’s Panoramio image library. To access the Google Maps “Photos” feature, click “More” and select “Photos”. In addition to viewing images, users can add their own photos by uploading them to

Google Maps Photo results in Google Maps

More “Wikipedia” Map Results

Thanks to Wikipedia’s Geographical coordinates Google Maps now includes Wikipedia articles in Maps results relevant to user queries and based on the geographical location of results. According to Wikipedia, “Any Wikipedian may participate in this project to better organize information in articles containing geographical coordinates.” The example below shows a search for “Atlanta” and includes a Wikipedia icon for the Georgia Aquarium at “Coordinates 33.76250, -84.39400” top right in the page.

Wikipedia results in Google Maps

Google Maps Video

Google Video and YouTube users have the option of providing geographic information when entering descriptions for their videos. Google Maps uses this information to map videos and make them available in Google Maps based on geographic location.

Video results in Google Maps

Google Maps Edits

When users find an error in a Google Maps locations or details, they can correct it using the “Edit” feature. By using the edit feature users can remove a place, add new places, flag inappropriate content and even view the edit history for locations in Google Maps. Google’s “Recent Edits” shows edits by other users in real-time.

In addition to all of the above, user can create their own maps in Google Maps: Customizing Google Maps is easy! Google Maps allows users to overlay weather, photos, public transit maps and original content. In addition, Google Maps allows users to interact with Google Maps tools and maps created by Google developers. Google Maps users can share, personalize, track and save maps all by setting up a Google Maps account. You might want to check out some of these features next time you pay a visit to Google’s mapping program.

Example “My map" for Georgia Tech’s Conference on RSS


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