07 September 2008
Google Maps(for a time named Google Local) is a free web mapping service application and technology provided by Google that powers many map-based services including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder and embedded maps on third-party websites via the Google Maps API. It offers street maps, a route planner, and an urban business locator for numerous countries around the world.
A related product is Google Earth, a standalone program for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux which offers enhanced globe-viewing features.
Google Maps features a map that can be navigated by dragging the mouse, or using the mouse wheel to zoom in (mouse wheel up) or out (mouse wheel down) to show detailed street information. Users may enter an address, intersection or general area to quickly find it on the map.
Search results can be restricted to a certain area, thanks to Google Local. For example, someone can enter a query such as "Waffles in Ottawa" to find restaurants serving waffles near the city. This can be used to find a wide variety of businesses, such as theatres, restaurants and hotels.
Like many other map services, Google Maps allows for the creation of driving directions. It gives the user a step-by-step list of how to get to their destination, along with an estimate of the time required to reach it and the distance between the two locations. Since July 2007, it has been possible to drag a point on the route to another location, adding a waypoint, and instantly showing the revised route and length while dragging.
Google Maps offers four viewing modes by default: Map (topographic and street map), Satellite (satellite and high-resolution aerial photographs), Hybrid (Street maps overlaid on satellite and high-resolution aerial photographs) and Street View, this feature was introduced on May 30, 2007 (ground level 360 degree view of certain streets).
The "link to this page" link on each Google Maps map targets a URL which can be used to find the location on the map at a later time. The latitude and longitude can be used as input to NASA World Wind or TerraServer-USA, which in some cases have higher-resolution imagery.
Google Maps provides high-resolution satellite images for most urban areas in Canada and the United States (including Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) as well as parts of New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iceland, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Iraq, Japan, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Kuwait, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and many other countries. Google Maps also covers many cities including Moscow, Istanbul, and most of India.
All the images shown in Google Maps" satellite mode are at least a year old and in some places like New Jersey date back to 2001. Various governments have complained about the potential for terrorists to use the satellite images in planning attacks. Google has blurred some areas for security (mostly in the United States), including the U.S. Naval Observatory area (where the official residence of the Vice President is located), and until recently, the United States Capitol and the White House (which formerly featured erased housetop). Other well-known government installations are visible including Area 51 in the Nevada desert.
With the introduction of an easily pannable and searchable mapping and satellite imagery tool, Google"s mapping engine prompted a surge of interest in satellite imagery. Sites such as Google Sightseeing and Virtual Globetrotting were established which feature satellite images of interesting natural and man-made landmarks, including such novelties as "large type" writing visible in the imagery, as well as famous stadia and unique earth formations.
Although Google uses the word "satellite", some of the high-resolution imagery is aerial photography rather than satellite imagery.
The GIS (Geographic Information System) data used in Google Maps are provided by Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ, while the small patches of high-resolution satellite imagery are largely provided by DigitalGlobe and its QuickBird satellite, with some imagery also from government sources. The main global imagery base called NaturalVue was derived from Landsat 7 imagery by MDA Federal (formerly Earth Satellite Corporation). This global image base provides the essential foundation for the entire application.
Extensibility and customization
Using the core engine and the map/satellite images hosted by Google, such tools can introduce custom location icons, location coordinates and metadata, and even custom map image sources into the Google Maps interface. Some of the more well-known of these "Google Maps Hacks" include tools that display locations of Craigslist rental properties, student apartment rentals, and local map Chicago crime data (or check Misdaadkaart.nl showing crimes of one entire country). Other mashups visualise positions of trains or use the technology for map-based games. The script-insertion tool Greasemonkey provides a large number of client-side scripts to customize Google Maps data, and the mygmaps.com website provides an interface for easily adding your own set of locations and viewing them on Google Maps.
Combined with photo sharing websites such as Flickr, a phenomenon called "memory maps" emerged. Using copies of the Keyhole satellite photos of their home towns or other favorite places, the users take advantage of image annotation features to provide personal histories and information regarding particular points of the area.
Google Maps API
When the API first launched, it lacked the ability to geocode addresses, requiring you to manually add points in (latitude, longitude) format. This has since been rectified.
At the same time as the release of the Google Maps API, Yahoo! released their own Maps API. Both were released to coincide with the O"Reilly Web 2.0 Conference. Yahoo! Maps lacks international support, but included a geocoder in the first release.
As of October 2006, Google Gadgets" Google maps implementation is much easier to use with just the need of one line of script. The drawback is that it is not as customizable as the full API.
In late 2006, Yahoo began a campaign to upgrade their maps, to compete better with Google Local and other online map companies. Several of the maps used in a survey were similar to Google maps.
Google Maps actively promotes the commercial use of their API. One of its earliest adopters at large scale are real estate mashup sites. Google"s case study is about Nestoria, a property search engine in the UK and Spain. Another adopter is property, jobs and cars search engine, trovit.
Google Maps for Mobile
In late 2006, Google introduced a Java applet called Google Maps for Mobile, which is intended to run on any Java based phone or mobile device. Most, if not all,[ web based features are available from within the application. There is also a full-featured version, including GPS Integration, available for Windows Mobile PocketPCs and smartphones. ]
Google Maps parameters
In Google Maps, the URL parameters may be tweaked to offer views and options not normally available through on-screen controls.
For instance, the maximum zoom level offered is normally 18, but if higher-resolution images are available, changing the z parameter, which sets the zoom level, will allow the user to access them, as in this view of elephants or this view of people at a well using the parameter z=23.
A list of Google Maps parameters and their descriptions is available.
Development history until recent issues
Google Maps was first announced on the Google Blog on February 8 2005. and was located at http://maps.google.com/. It originally only supported users of Internet Explorer and Mozilla web browsers, but support for Opera and Safari was added on February 25, 2005. Currently (July 1 2006) Internet Explorer 6.0+, Firefox 0.8+, Safari 1.2.4+, Netscape 7.1+, Mozilla 1.4+, and Opera 8.02+ are supported. It was in beta for six months before becoming part of Google Local on October 6 2005.
The specific features of Google Maps vary by country.
Satellite imagery of varying resolution is available worldwide.
Google Maps is currently localized in 17 countries.
The main Google Maps site includes a local search feature, finding businesses of a certain category in a geographic area.
Google Ditu (谷歌地图 lit. "Google Map") was released to the public on February 9, 2007, and replaced the old Google Bendi (谷歌本地 lit. "Google Local"). This is the Chinese localised Google Maps and Google Local services only cover China.
There are some differences in frontier alignments between Google Ditu and Google Maps. On Google Maps, sections of the Chinese border with India, Pakistan and Tajikistan are shown with dotted lines, indicating areas or frontiers in dispute. However, Google Ditu shows the Chinese frontier strictly according to Chinese claims with no "dotted lines" anywhere. For example the area now administered by India called Arunchal Pradesh (referred to as "South Tibet" by Chinese official sources) is shown inside the Chinese frontier by Google Ditu. Google Ditu also shows Taiwan and the surrounding islands as part of China.
In honor of the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, Google took public domain imagery of the Moon, integrated it into the Google Maps interface, and created a tool called Google Moon. By default this tool, with a reduced set of features, also displays the points of landing of all Apollo spacecraft to land on the Moon. It also included an easter egg, displaying a Swiss cheese design at the highest zoom level, which Google has since removed. Google Moon was linked from a special commemorative version of the Google logo displayed at the top of the main Google search page for July 20, 2005 (UTC) webarchive.org.
Google Mars provides a visible imagery view, like Google Moon, as well as infrared imagery and shaded relief (elevation). Users can toggle between the elevation, visible, and infrared data, in the same manner as switching between map, satellite, and hybrid modes of Google Maps. In collaboration with NASA scientists at Arizona State University, Google has provided the public with data collected from two NASA Mars missions, Mars Global Surveyor and 2001 Mars Odyssey. At present, the Google Earth desktop client cannot access the data, but the feature is in development.
It is currently not known if Google Mars will become a standalone program.
NASA has made available a number of Google Earth desktop client maps for Mars at http://onmars.jpl.nasa.gov/.
Google Ride Finder
Google launched an experimental Google Maps-based tool called Ride Finder, tapping into in-car GPS units for a selection of participating taxi and limousine services. The tool displays the current location of all supported vehicles of the participating services in major US cities, including Chicago and San Francisco on a Google Maps street map.
In December 2005, Google launched Google Transit. This is a web application (listed in Google Labs), that plans a trip using public transportation options. Google Transit launched with support for Portland, Oregon. Information for Eugene, Oregon; Honolulu, Hawaii; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Seattle, Washington; and Tampa, Florida was added on September 27 2006, with more added since. The service calculates route, transit time and cost, and can compare the trip to one using a car.
Google My Maps
In April 2007, My Maps was a new feature added to Google"s local search maps. My Maps lets users and businesses such as weather.com andcreate their own map by positioning markers, polylines and polygons onto a map. The interface is a straightforward overlay on the map. A set of eighty-four pre-designed markers is available, ranging from bars and restaurants to webcam and earthquake symbols. Polyline and Polygon colour, width and opacity are selectable. Maps modified using My Maps can be saved for later viewing and made public (or marked as private), but cannot be printed.
Each element added to a My Map has an editable tag. This tag can contain text, rich text or HTML. Embeddable video and other content can be included within the HTML tag.
Upon the launch of My Maps there was no facility to embed the created maps into a webpage or blog. A few independent websites have now produced tools to let users embed maps and add further functionality to their maps. This has been resolved with version 2.78.
Google Street View
On May 25 2007, Google released Street View, a new feature of Google Maps which provides 360° panoramic street-level views of Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix-Tucson, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, and their surrounding metropolitan areas. This feature has raised some privacy concerns, with views found to show men leaving strip clubs, protesters at an abortion clinic, sunbathers in bikinis, and other activities. Google maintains that the photos were taken from public property. Before launching the service, Google removed photos of domestic violence shelters, and allows users to flag inappropriate or sensitive imagery for Google to review and remove. The process for requesting that an image be removed is not trivial. Images of potential break-ins, sunbathers and individuals entering adult bookstores have, for example, remained active and these images have been widely republished.
Google has plans in the near future to add other U.S. cities to Street View, including Richmond, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Jacksonville and Seattle. It is not known when other parts of the U.S. and world will be included.
Google plans to eventually release street view for Canadian cities, but due to Canadian privacy laws, faces and license plates will be blurred after Canadian federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart raised concerns about the program breaching Canada"s privacy laws. Canadian cities that Google plans to include are: Calgary, Edmonton, Mississauga, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg
Google Maps Terms and Conditions state that usage of material from Google Maps is regulated by Google Terms of Service and some additional restrictions. Terms and Conditions, among others, state:
- For individual users, Google Maps [...] is made available for your personal, non-commercial use only. For business users, Google Maps is made available for your internal use only and may not be commercially redistributed [...]
Street map overlays, in some areas, may not match up precisely with the corresponding satellite images. The street data may be entirely erroneous, or simply out of date:
The biggest challenge is the currency of data, the authenticity of data," said Google Earth representative Brian McLendon. In other words: The main complaints the Google guys get are "that"s not my house" and "that"s not my car." Google Maps satellite images are not in real time; they are several years old.
Restrictions have been placed on Google Maps through the apparent censoring of locations deemed potential security threats. In some cases the area of redaction is for specific buildings, but in other cases, such as Washington, DC, the restriction is to use outdated imagery. These locations are fully listed on Satellite images censored by Google Maps.
Google Street View has also gained a significant amount of controversy in the days following its release; privacy concerns have erupted due to the uncensored nature of its panoramic photographs.
Canadian driving directions where the starting address is close to the US border have recently and mysteriously switched to imperial measurements, giving all directions in feet and miles, though the rest of Canada receives directions in standard metric. There is also no option to use the metric system in the United Kingdom, despite it being used officially alongside the Imperial system.