How Does Google Maps Work? [Technology Explained]

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how does Google Maps workLast week, we took a look at one of Google’s flagship apps, Google Earth. Today I want to see how does Google Maps work? Undoubtedly, you’ve used this once or twice. I tend to use it for planning out jogging routes and printing off maps when taking a journey so I don’t get lost.

It’s easy to navigate, has many easy options to print out or save your maps as well as place-marks for everyone else to view, such as those for businesses and landmarks.

Google Maps is the most well-known map service on the net offering basic street maps, terrain maps, satellite images and hybrid view which is a combination of the street maps and satellite images. Setting up such a service and keeping it running as well as making it better constantly is a tough job, so let’s take a look at how Google maps works.

Source Of Information

The map data you see in Google Maps is compiled by a private company with whom Google have a partnership. This company is called Tele Atlas and they are a world leader in navigation and location-based services. The maps are highly accurate and have been hailed for recording extremely rural areas and mapping the terrain correctly.

Google Maps also coordinates with several other in-house application currently run by Google. The most obvious of these is Google Earth. The two services use each other’s data for coordinating satellite imagery and in updating newly-developed areas which have yet to be updated on both databases.

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Business and premises which are place-marked on maps have been supplied by directory listings. In the US, Google say that they use Yellow Pages directories but also mentions, “We aren’t currently able to share our full list of U.S. Yellow Pages sources.” All other premises and place-marks are shared by users — which we will take a look at next.

User Place Marks and Information

You and I can also add place-marks of our own to Google maps under “˜My Maps’. With this feature, we can highlight our own places of interest, local businesses or just post the areas where photos or videos were taken. These will be made available to everyone you invite to share the map with. This can be very useful when collaborating on large projects or just mapping out your family tree. For example, take a look at MakeUseOf writers’ map.

how does Google Maps work

Any company or business can also add place-marks and information to Google Apps by using Mapplets. Mapplets is a service, similar to Maps API which allows you to either add new features to Google Maps or to overlay information. An example of this would be a real estate company overlaying the location of all their properties for sale. These Mapplets are quite easy to create and can be created in around ten minutes for basic services.

While Mapplets are similar to using Maps API, the two are different. The API can be used by developers to create their own maps for their own purposes. When you use Mapplets, you’re merely building on top of the existing product.

Mobile Apps

All of this has been a huge success on the web. However, Google have also rolled out numerous mobile apps so we can never get lost when we’re on the go. The most well known would the the iPhone/iPod app. However, there are also versions for different smart phone operating systems and a Java version which works on basic cell phones which I covered here.

These are all free but do have crippled functionality. All versions allow you to view map and satellite images and have the basic place-marks. But that’s about as far as it goes. These were intended to be used on the go, not as the primary source of maps which should be left up to the Google Maps website.

What do you use Google Maps for?

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