New Era for Interactive Maps
The world has gone crazy for online interactive mapping. Why now? Recent technology or just good design?
In the last year Google maps was released and has been getting some major attention. More recently Yahoo maps has added all the same feature that made Google maps great.
In case you haven't noticed, Google has been releasing new services which are updated smooth versions of some that other portals have had for a long time. When a service is clearly a step beyond the past in some major way, it can be welcomed as a new generation and even eclipse the old one. At the very least it earns a place among the leaders.
It's true that Yahoo maps, Map Quest, and others have had online maps available for many years. The remarkable technology behind these services has to do with the ability to convert just about any address into very precise map coordinates. Behind the scenes features are essential, but it's the interface and visible features which the user has to work with to experience what's inside. This is the main reason that Google maps launched a new wave of excitement over online maps.
Using a very clever design, Google maps has an interface which allows very natural map scrolling and zooming. It can show a symbolic map, a satellite map, or a clever hybrid view. The view can be expanded to fill the entire lower part of the window. (Tip: maximize your window, put in a single address. It shows no search results, just the single address in a huge map area.) The combined set of these features made Google maps the best online map tool despite some of the features of other sites which Google does not have.
Most users don't care about the technology behind the scenes, but they definitely like the result. User response was good. Good enough that the number of user map searches using Google maps now rivals Yahoo maps. Now Yahoo maps beta has all the same cool features that Google has. It's not clear if this makes Yahoo the best or not. Both services continue to compete, but it was Google that raised the level of expectations and excitement over online interactive maps to new heights.
People are excited about using these mapping services more than ever. Google maps gets brought up at parties, referenced on TV, mentioned in church services, recommended by realtors for checking out property locations, and mentioned by business owners hoping to design their site with advanced interactive features.
All these things give major credibility to Google's development team. Users may wonder what else Google can come up with that reaches new levels of usability and enjoyment. Both Google and Yahoo will try to amaze us more in the future. With the success of interactive map features, expect to see other existing and new services taking leaps and bounds forwards using new creative features and smoother interfaces.
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