Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday Google Maps!

Google Maps has now been at it for ten years! Here is a quote from their first announcement on the Google Blog titled Mapping Your Way, February 8th, 2005.

We think maps can be useful and fun, so we've designed Google Maps to simplify how to get from point A to point B. Say you're looking for "hotels near LAX." With Google Maps you'll see nearby hotels plotted right on a crisp new map (we use new rendering methods to make them easier to read). Click and drag the map to view the adjacent area dynamically - there's no wait for a new image to download.
Shall we try that?
Wow! It works! Still!

I looked for old screenshots of what their product looked like back in 2005 but was not very successful, so these images from old Map of the Week posts will have to do. Here is an image from 2006 from a post about urban food choices in West Philly. If you ignore the points, you can see how Google's Cartography has improved.
I really disliked the early look of Google Maps. The streets were so wide there was little room for any other detail. Also, the road hierarchy was a problem - too many important (yellow) roads makes them all less important. They have improved the look tremendously, changed to a more subtle and readable color scheme and added lots of nice detail-especially when you zoom in a bit more.
For a more zoomed out perspective, here is a map of Sioux City, Iowa from a 2007 blog post, compared with the current Google Map.
Even with a blurry and obscured 2007 image you can still see how the hierarchy of roads, level of detail and color scheme has improved.

There have been many other areas of improvement too such as better directions, points of interest with web links, bicycle and transit routes, street view and more detailed aerial photos (they still erroneously call it "Satellite View") including in some places the oblique (45 degree) view.
Or for something a little more interesting - Coit Tower, San Francisco. 
I also think maps can be useful and fun - how about a floor plan?
More cartographically exciting is the terrain view. In some places it's quite stunning! I will leave you with this image from the Italian Alps.

1 comment:

Mano Marks said...

Thanks for the early happy birthday! It also happens to be my birthday, though I'm a little older than Google Maps.