I have not been much of an online mapper up until now (give me a map and I guarantee to get you even more lost than before!) but while I was casually surfing around the other day, I somehow happened to land upon Google Maps.
|While idly clicking on the various buttons, I found some really neat new features that will make me pay closer attention to the site from now on.
If this doesn’t now make Google Maps number one in online mapping then I don’t know what will.
So to review the features, let’s fly with Google Maps to New York, the city that never sleeps…..come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly, let’s fly……
The MORE button
The key to turning on the new features is the “more” button at the top. If you mouse over that, you’ll see two choices, “photos” and “Wikipedia”. If you tick those, suddenly the Central Park area of New Yorkfills up with photos.
The photos, which are locally geo-tagged, are hosted by Panoramio. If you click once on a thumbnail, the photo expands and you can see the photo made bigger.
This kind of reminds me of what Google is doing with their Earth software but by also moving it into their Maps online site, they are giving people the opportunity to experience the features if they don’t want to download and install Earth (I know quite a few people who are not inclined to install Google Earth). Plus you can run Google Maps on your PDA.
Read Wikipedia content on the map
Next up, you can scroll around and look for the Wikipedia symbol on the map. When you find one and click on it, it then gives you the Wikipedia entry for that place so you can instantly be given all the available information on that building / landmark.
This is invaluable if the place is a tourist place such as a concert hall, a theatre or a historical landmark. For example, by scrolling around the map of New York, I found and clicked on the Wikipedia entries for the Savoy ballroom, Fort Lee in New Jersey, and Teaneck in New Jersey. So much information can be accessed at the click of a button!
Watch YouTube videos on the map
But the best feature of all has to be the ability to click on and watch YouTube videos inside the Google map for the region you’re viewing. The difficulty here though is that the videos don’t stand out. There’s no YouTube logo on the map the same way that there’s a Wikipedia logo for the Wikipedia entries. The videos look like photos and there’s no clear way to see them which means there’s an easy way and a hard way to find the videos. The hard way is to click around the map and hope you strike lucky (no thanks) and the easy way, as far as I can see, is to look on the maps sidebar. When you zoom in on an area of the map, the maps sidebar automatically filters out all the media and shows you all the photos and all the videos. But saying that, the maps sidebar tends to be a bit buggy. If you make one wrong click, it sends you off in the other direction and you can’t get back again!
All in all, these improvements have seriously impressed me, so much so that I am seriously considering buying a PDA and taking a closer interest in the mapping sites from now on. It’ll be interesting to see how Yahoo Maps reacts to all of this and what they will bring out in response. Will they copy these features or will they bring out something totally new and totally better to top Google?
The possibilities for these features are endless. Are you going on holiday soon? Then just go to Google Maps and type in your destination. Click through the photos of the area, view YouTube videos of the area and read relevant Wikipedia entries. In other words, go on a “virtual tour”. The same if you are planning to move house and relocate to a different area. You can use Google Maps to do your research. No more flying blind!