If you’ve been using the Google Maps app like pretty much everyone else, you might not know that the desktop app is about to get a complete overhaul. Here’s a rundown of some of the most important changes and what you need to know.
1. A whole new look for Maps
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Google Maps is the totally new look and feel of the desktop experience. Maps has become full screen and the search bar is now embedded into the interface making it super easy to just search for something and have it instantly appear.
2. More personalized search results
Assuming you’re logged into your Google account, the search remembers your last three inquiries and will bring those up when you toggle in the search bar. When you’re ready to search for something new, just simply type it in. When I searched for burger restaurants in Boston, a slew of possibilities popped up. And due to Google’s intent on making the experience more personalized, it will further customize the map view based on the locations you click on and provide other options for your search result in the area.
3. More location details, with social search features
What’s cool is the detailed information that comes up about a location you click on, like here, the Audubon Circle restaurant, giving you immediate access to Zagat ratings, reviews, photos, sometimes even menus and 3D walkthroughs of the place, which is what you get with the app. Perfect for checking out a place for a group gathering before everyone getting there.
If you are connected to other contacts through your Google account (like Google+) and they also use Maps and have reviewed places near where you are searching, those will pop up as well, giving you a little more insight into what burger places (or any places) they prefer.
4. Improved directions, now with traffic information
And of course, Google Maps isn’t just about finding good places, it’s about getting to them. Kind of the point of Maps, right? Directions are easy to access once you have figured out where you want to go. You can type in your starting point and it will map out driving directions, tell you how long it should take to get there, any potential traffic obstructions and also gives options for other modes of transport like bus, train or walking.
5. Integration with Google Earth
On the visual side, Google has added Google Earth into the Maps function and lets you see everything from 3D to street views, depending on your preferred mode of mapping. It also added a photos bar at the bottom which basically provides a scrolling slideshow of Google images of major landmarks around the locations you are searching for.
6. Maps now adapts as you use it
Google claims that the more you use Maps, star things, review them, the more customized it will be for you with every forthcoming visit. Your landmarks will appear and similar locations that Google thinks you’ll like will start popping up. That’s the good. The questionable part is how this personalization process is happening.
7. New features bring new privacy concerns
Google is tracking whatever you’re clicking on, writing about and favoriting (along with the searches, clicks and favorites of those in your Google circles) and compiling all this data to offer you this experience, which may become an issue when all of these changes come to mobile phones (anticipated for later this summer). With Google tracking your whereabouts via GPS and the places you are frequenting using the Maps app, I think it’s definitely something to be aware of from a privacy perspective.
But in the meantime, Google Maps’ desktop experience is worth playing around with. The interactivity and additional visual features are fun to experience and definitely gives you the opportunity to explore any area of the world, free of charge. –Jeana
Google Maps will soon be rolling out to everyone, but if you can’t wait and want a preview, request an invite for the new Google Maps to get access in a few days.