It’s Google Maps’ fifteenth anniversary since it was presented to the public. To celebrate this occasion, the Google team has changed the look of the tool, in addition to adding updates based on user feedback.
Since 2005, Google began mapping the world. Since then, the company’s developer team has transformed the way people use the maps. The paper map in the glove compartment became a thing of the past. Now, it is easier to get from one point to another, in addition to exploring the surroundings more easily. Today, more than one billion people use Google Maps to discover routes, restaurants, or museums around them.
This list is a brief chronology of the route that Google has taken to develop Maps:
15 Innovations In 15 Years
1. Google Maps is born. Google presented Maps to the public as a solution to get from one point to another. At first, this tool was only available for the desktop. Since then, Maps has reached more than one billion users around the world.
2. Google Earth, the total map. A few months after the launch of Maps, Google brought Google Earth to the public, a tool that offers 3D views of the planet on the desktop. Since then, image processing technology has improved and, today, Google Earth provides high-definition satellite images of 36 million square miles for digital browsers.
3. API for developers. In mid-2005, Google took another step to popularize maps by announcing the API of its tool. Currently, more than five million websites and applications use the Google Maps platform every week.
4. Google Trip Planner arrives in Portland. In December 2005, Portland, Oregon, was the first city in the world to use Transit Trip Planner, a tool that allowed users to view public transportation routes and schedules. Although this tool started as a separate product, it was later integrated into Maps.
5. Real-time traffic announcements. About two years after the presentation of Google Maps, the company incorporated real-time traffic information from 30 cities in the United States.
6. Check out the street. Street View made its world debut on May 29, 2007. To collect images for this tool, Google put cameras on everything from snow sleds to camels. In total, more than 10 million miles were captured.
7. Google Maps is available on the cell phone. In November 2007, the Maps application began to be available from the cell phone. This application went from desktop to mobile phones, is available in Blackberries and Palms. In 2008, Google launched its first Android application, while the iOS app came until 2012.
8. Real-time routes. In 2009, Maps incorporated a new update for its app, offering real-time navigation. Users could now receive information about their routes without worrying if they missed them.
9. Street View Trekker reaches heights, literally. Street View was already reaching unusual locations, but Google took this to a new level when it introduced Street View Trekker, allowing a high-tech team to capture images from a backpack. The project began by capturing the Grand Cayon, and since then, it has gone to remote places like the Amazon jungle and the top of the Eiffel tower.
10. Visit the hidden gems of your city. Google Maps made it easier for people to access information about restaurants, bars, and hotels in a city. This function was possible thanks to the creation of a database that includes ratings, horary, and prices of these sites. Currently, Google has information available from more than 200 million businesses and places around the world.
11. Take care of your business. Also, in 2014, Google helped companies offer more relevant information, integrating Maps with Google My Business. This product allows business owners to better manage their presence on Maps and in the Search Engine, making it easier to update information, add photos, or respond to reviews.
12. Is there no connection? No problem. In November 2015, Google presented the option to consult offline maps. In this way, users can check addresses without needing to be online.
13. Meet your local guides. Also, in November 2015, Google introduced its program of local guides, creating a community of users passionate about sharing reviews, photos, and other information about places around the world.
4. Travel in a wheelchair. In March 2018, Google added accessible routes for wheelchair users, offering more straightforward navigation for those with special mobility needs. Currently, the map includes information on the accessibility of entrances and bathrooms in more than 50 million places in the world.
15. Live View lives. In February, Google announced Live View, a feature that uses augmented reality to help users walk and receive directions around the world.
Controversies With Maps
Maps is a tool that stores and analyzes millions of bytes of information at all times. With applications of this scale, errors become common. However, some errors cost more than others.
The dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In 2010, Google Maps caused a diplomatic conflict between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, because its map data was considered as a reliable source to establish the border between the two countries. However, this information was wrong.
The conflict was not entirely the responsibility of Google, as Nicaraguan General Eden Pastora used the tool as an excuse to carry out an action. Border conflicts between Costa Rica and Nicaragua date from the 19th century.
Reports of police spots and speed traps. The United States police complained that Google, which also manages the Waze application, allows reporting where there are speed traps and other points where the police check users.
Privacy concerns about Street View. Google also had to deal with privacy concerns for its Street View tool. In several European countries, the creation of Street View is not legal, since local laws prohibit photographing people without their consent if they intend to publish the photos.
Too much cartographic power. Activists and academics have criticized the cartographic power of the service since they believe that this can represent a danger for democracy to democracy because of its growing link in areas such as urban planning.
Makeover for Maps
To celebrate these 15 years of innovation in maps, Google has updated the image of Maps and added a more user-friendly design, to make the exploration more comfortable and more pleasant.
As of February 6, Google Maps applications in Android and iOS have an update available that offers users more convenient access to explore, save, contributes, plot routes, or update through five easily accessible tabs.
The update is accompanied by a change of appetite in the Google Maps icon to reflect the transformations that Google has made while mapping the world. In addition to this, for a limited time, a holiday car icon will be available.
New Travel Information
For a year, Google added predictions so that users know how busy public transport is, such as trains, buses, or subways. This information is based on past trips and, to help users plan their trips, the company added new details on the route, such as temperature, accessibility, women’s section, or safety review.
Google obtains this information from travelers who shared their experiences on public transport when it was available. Users can help improve this information through surveys that Google offers on recent trips.
In March, this function will be available globally, depending on the region and the municipal transport agency.
New Ways to Offer Addresses
One of the most exciting new features introduced last year is Live View. Through this tool, users can combine the sensation of a real-world that Street View offers with Machine Learning and the sensors of their smartphones to find directions through augmented reality.
This feature will be tested in the coming months, and the Google team says there will be new features, starting with improved help for users looking for a site.