Google Maps added some new stuff: You can now edit maps collaboratively, letting a whole bunch of people combine wiki-style to create custome MyMaps about any subject.
They’ve also junked the “Hybrid” button, which probably made no sense to new users, and replaced it with “Terrain”, which shows colored maps and elevated terrain, a unique* and visually striking view that combines roadmaps with a simulation of land types. The hybrid view isn’t gone, it’s just available as a “Labels” check box when you click the satellite view.
Now, when you click on a search result in Google Maps, it will occasionally show a picture of the business. This is not a Street View image, as Barry identifies it, but an image from the Google Local Business Referrals program, where anyone can take a picture of a store, enter the details of the place, and have it added to Google Maps (and get paid $2-10).
Google Maps Mobile has a new feature: My Location. It uses the cell phone towers around your phone to determine your location whenever you press the “0″ (zero) key on your keypad or select it in the menu. It’s available now in beta at google.com/gmm for Windows Mobile, Java, Blackberry and Symbian, but not for Palm (though the webpage will eroneously invite you to download it anyway).
I tried it out on my Windows Mobile phone, and it gave me my location within 1700 meters (1.05 miles - Google, don’t use the Metric system!). It was only off by about six small blocks, but more importantly it was more than close enough for driving directions or finding local businesses, and that’s the real point. Wonderful feature, even works over wifi if you don’t have a data plan, and completely one-ups Microsoft**.
** - Microsoft doesn’t have anything like this feature, but they do have voice recognition for any location. So, Google has made it dead easy to find out where you are, but Microsoft has made it easy to find any place at all. Both are great features, and whoever has both first will make me a happy boy.
You can see the Android UI as it currently exists (or rather, barely exists). It’s plain, but seems comfortable and stable with room to grow into something nice, support for touchscreens, smartphones, larger VGA screens, a Webkit-based browser, Java virtual machine, threaded (conversational) text messaging, playback of MPEG-4, h.264, MP3, and AAC file formats.
Here’s a video showing Android in action, featuring Sergey Brin’s new “hung over” look and some idea of how the UI isn’t fully realized or much in competition with the iPhone. The Google Maps app has some good ideas, the web browser looks like it can’t do anything, the history app is a nice addition, the spinning globe shows that Android can do 3D pretty cool, and Google Maps Street View is nice.
Scoble isn’t impressed. I’ll say that it has a lot of potential, but they aren’t showing enough to make me believe that any of that potential includes significant success.
Gizmodo has an interesting look at the fonts created by Ascender for Android, the Droid family of fonts (fitting name). They seem pretty clean and well thought out. You’d be surprised how important fonts are in operating system design, but if you think about it, you do spend a huge amount of time staring more at the letters than the pretty boxes, so it makes sense that Microsoft and Apple put a lot of work into getting the best fonts and font rendering techniques.
Looks like there are over 1,000 Google millionaires. Even the ex-masseuse has a million dollars in Google stock. The average employee who joined a year ago is already worth $276,000 and counting.
Larry Page, Google founder and one of the ten richest people in the country, is getting married December 8 to Lucy Southworth, his girlfriend. Richard Branson and SF mayor Gavin Newsom are expected to attend, as well as many former and current Googlers, and, via videoconference, Al Gore.
Google changed the area in AdSense ads that can be clicked by the user, from pretty much the whole ad space to just the title and URL. Publishers are worried that the move, which is really supposed to just decrease accidental clicks, will cost them regular clicks, too. Early feedback is that the effect on earnings is minimal. My clickthrough rate is pretty consistent, though still kind of low.
Google Transit, which lets you get public transportation directions in Google Maps, now shows some European cities. They’ve got southeast of the UK, SBB, Switzerland, VBZ, Zurich, Switzerland, Turin, Italy, and Florence, Italy, but still no New York.
Google has a new widget you can add to your site which users can click on to automatically translate your website into the language of their choice. Microsoft added a similar widget at almost exactly the same time.
Google has announced a partnership with Gilbarco Veeder-Root, makers of gasoline pumps. Under the deal, Google Maps will be built into their pumps, letting motorists get driving directions while topping off their tanks. Three thousand internet-enabled gas pumps across the country will get the new software, which will let them search Google Maps for businesses and find directions (directions to an address will be added later). There will be no ads, but they can print out coupons, which is one way Google can monetize.
Google Maps has a new area where you can search for coupons that stores have made available in Maps. Just go to a page like this one, and enter the area you’d like to search for stores with coupons in by the second search box. For better results, put the type of store’s coupon you’re looking for in the first box, like coupons for “pizza” in “flushing ny”.
I noticed last month that Google registered a bunch of “Google-Coupons.com”-style domains, and it looks like that was a real sign of things to come. I usually post about domain name registrations at InsideMicrosoft, so it’d be worth checking out those posts in detail in case some clue is waiting in there.
(via Blumenthals > Praized)
Ionut Alex reports that Google Maps has added profile pages for users who create content for the service. The profile services are built on the same nameless platform Google Shared Stuff profiles are built on, and show reviews you’ve written and personalized MyMaps you’ve created. Check out his post for screenshots, or this video which explains it all:
Other new features I’ve neglected to cover:
Google Desktop 5.5 was released in beta, and it brings an improved Quick Search box, support for running multiple copies of a Gadget at once, and improved Outlook searching. It also brings a new ability: Google Desktop Gadgets can now run on iGoogle homepages. That means that the desktop Gadgets, with advanced functionality and the ability to access files on your computer (like playing music files) can run in a webpage and take advantage of iGoogle’s tabs.
If a regular iGoogle user tries to use a Desktop Gadget, they’ll be prompted to install Google Desktop in order to be able to use it. The version of Desktop they install will be a special, streamlined version that has only the Gadget functionality enabled, but none of the desktop search stuff. The advantage for Google is that all the rest of Desktop is right there and ready, should users decide to check it out.
Ionut Alex shows what a Google Online Desktop could look like, with a full desktop and windows showing your Gmail, Google Calendar, and other Google services.
Google Transit, a Labs service that showed public transportation on Google Maps, has been folded into Maps itself. Now, if you are in one of the five cities for which transit data is available (SF, Seattle, Portland, Dallas and Japan), you’ll get bus and train directions if you want.
And get this: YouTube videos are now available as a layer in Google Earth. Geotagged videos will appear as placemarks in Google Earth, and you can click them to watch them right there in the interface.
The Navy is embarking on a $600,000 alteration of meaningless barracks facility near San Diego, changing the look of the 40-year old building so it no longer resembles a swastika. Because of the availability and popularity of Google Maps, Google Earth, and other satelite maps services, people noticed the shape of the building, which matches the logo of the Nazi party, causing a mini and constly uproar that otherwise would never have happened.
The Navy said officials noted the buildings’ shape after the groundbreaking in 1967 but decided against changing it at the time because it wasn’t obvious from the ground. Aerial photos made available on such services as Windows Live and Google Earth in recent years have since revealed the buildings’ shape to a wide audience.
On the one hand, the building’s shape is unusual but efficient, and not that big a deal, and they could have just ignored it. On the other hand, if we can get the swastika building changed, perhaps we can start cleaning up all the buildings left behind by the Freemasons before their strange architecture begins confusing our Thetan masters.
JMP Securities analyst William Morrison looks at ComScore data, and shows that YouTube is now commanding 35% of Google’s users, and a full 28% of all minutes spent on Google properties. Considering that streaming video uses up more of Google resources than, say, a search results page, but YouTube is monetized at an extremely smaller rate than Google search, it’s safe to say that if Google doesn’t find a way to monetize more of YouTube, and fast, it’s going to become a major drain on the company.
He also notes that Google has enjoyed healthy growth over the last year, with 20% growth in worldwide users, 18% in U.S. users (22% of the total), 113% in time spent on site, and 56% in page views. A real shocker: Google Maps has surged 98% to 682 million pageviews, much more than Yahoo’s 397 million. Is MapQuest still number one? I wonder.
(via Blogging Stocks)
Om Malik reports that Google’s Marissa Mayer is saying Google Maps usage has shot up sharply since the iPhone was released in July, and hasn’t stopped rising. It appears the 1 million-plus iPhone users really like Maps, making it possibly the killer application for the phone. Hopefully Google will take this to heart and put more attention to the versions of Google Maps on other platforms.
While I like the version of Google Maps on my Windows Mobile phone, Google’s iPhone success shows that some better attention to detail, especially in the interface, as well as preloading agreements, can make a huge difference. Get Google Maps preloaded on a lot of phones, and you’ll probably see similar success.
To go with the new Google Lunar X Prize, Google has updated Google Moon. While Google Moon used to be a commemorative (half-joke) Google map of our moon, it now has astronaut icons with info about moon landings, as well as panoramic photos (shows Street View style) taken by Apollo astronauts. Read more at Blogoscoped (where Philipp mentions that the cheese layer is now gone too, sadly).
Ionut reports that Google Maps has added street and satellite maps of 54 new countries, doubling Latin American coverage and tripling the number of Asian countries. The biggest countries added include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
As you can see, the “street” maps in Iraq reveal almost nothing of use:
Google Maps added a nice feature to My Maps, letting you draw lines on the maps (which you already could do) and see how long those lines are. That opens up lots of possibilities, like bike routes, hiking trails, or drawing a line from Shea Stadium to your house and seeing if the route you take to a Mets game is shorted than just taking the streets or walking along the highway.
The answer, after drawing all three routes on the map? The complicated, winding route I take through Flushing Meadow Park is 3.09 miles long. Walking along the highway, a much more direct route, is 3.29 miles long. Walking with the streets is 3.2 miles long. Looks like when I decided on that route, at 15 years old, I was right about it being shorter and faster, plus its more scenic and safer than the highway or the neighborhood I’d have to walk through.
So, try out this new feature, and see if you’ve been taking the fastest route somewhere. Maybe there’s something you hadn’t considered that could save you some time getting to work, or the game, or a more scenic route that doesn’t take that much longer. With this new feature, it’s easy.
Also: Since this is a MyMaps feature, you can share it with others, showing them the fastest route somewhere, multiple routes, the distance around a neighborhood, the length of a building, anything. Have fun with it!
As Zoli points out, this is another case where Google Maps has put a bunch of mashups out of business by bringing their feature into Google Maps.
Barry listed these search engine (and related) stuff being done for today:
This ran on Dogpile:
and this on Search Engine Roundtable:
Google didn’t run anything, and neither did Yahoo, Ask or Windows Live.
New Google Web Toolkit
Google released a new version of its Web Toolkit, a toolkit for creating high-end Java applications in the Google style. Read more about it here.
Google Earth, Windows Live Maps & Others In Flash
Flash Earth now lets you use a Flash interface to get around Google Maps, Windows Live Maps (aerial and labeled), Yahoo Maps, Ask Maps (aerial and physical), OpenLayers and NASA Terra daily satellite imagery.
(via, via, via)
Google Sued For Email Patent
Polaris IP, one of those soul-sucking companies that appears to exist for no reason except to sue companies who do productive and innovative things over patents they own and don’t use, has sued Google, Amazon, Yahoo, AOL, Borders and IAC over some email patent. The patent has something to do with email rules and automatic message routing.
Considering they didn’t invent anything, but bought the patent from a company that did, and the patent shouldn’t have been issued (other companies were doing the same thing before the original patent holder filed for the patent), this is just another one of those patent lawsuits that would go away in a world with a sensible justice system.
Some Quintura Stuff
Someone pointed out Quintura to me. They’ve got this kid search engine (I think they may have just launched it), which has a kid-friendly interface (including only five results per page, to make things easier). Both their kid search engine and their regular search interface include this really cool tag cloud feature, where you roll over a word and it rebuilds the cloud (without you clicking anything) based on that word, and does so endlessly as you roll over new words.
YouTube Competitor Gets A Crappy Name
NBC and News Corp revealed the name of their YouTube competitor, which they have been talking about but still haven’t launched for half a year. The name: Hulu, exactly the sort of means-nothing non-offensive crap name that you’d expect six months of focus groups to turn out. Good work, time to move on to being a failure!
Not only does the name mean nothing of importance to users and is likely to bore people away from visiting the website, it actually means “cease and desist” in Swahili. So, at least we know they have their priorities straight! Where would you rather go: (a) YouTube or (b) SafeguardingIntellectualPropertyTube?
They say that they didn’t need to convince or force employees to use it, it just happened, and that 87% of Googlers used it in the last week and 96% in the last month. Which sounds nice, but a better stat would be: How many have stopped using Microsoft Word and Excel? If Word and Excel usage have dropped by half, then you’ve got some real confidence, and I apologize.
AdSense Vista Gadget
If you need to check your AdSense earnings every few minutes without loading a webpage, there’s an AdSense Gadget for Windows Vista’s Sidebar. And if you can get the Gadget to actually work, you deserve a hug (and send me an email).
Google Docs Gets Right-Click Menu
Google added a good UI feature to Google Docs & Other Things, letting you right-click in the file manager to get a context menu. While it would be unfair to say they’ve now caught up with Windows 95 (they are trying very hard, and this takes time), it is good to know that the interface is maturing. Ionut Alex has examples with screenshots.
YouTube Partners Winning Over YouTube Users?
Ionut Alex wrote a post looking at the new branding for YouTube partner pages I mentioned recently, with a different YouTube player and a giant advertisement, but he also noted something strage: The Universal Music Group official version of a music video had 14 million views, compared to the user uploaded version, which had 378 thousand. This despite the fact that the user version could be embedded on any website, and the partner version was trapped in the walled garden.
Could it be that these partners are solving a problem for YouTube, bringing the user onto YouTube with their market power, instead of having users leech most of the bandwidth from external embeds? Could the partners be winning? I have so many questions, but this is supposed to be a lazy post, so, moving on…
Check out this cool Google Maps mashup, MapTheCandidates.com. It shows you where the 2008 Presidential candidates are campaigning, with links to news stories, as well as YouTube videos embedded in the map. You can limit the map to campaign stop by any group of candidates, or click to view a page showing a seperate mashup for specific candidates, along with all the news stories for that candidate, like this one for Rudy Giuliani.
Jeez, 53 out of Rudy’s 75 campaign stops in the last six weeks have been in Iowa or New Hampshire, but none of the others have been in New York. He came to New Jersey, but not New York?
Google has changed their policy for removing certain items from Google Maps Street View, specifically faces and license plates. Google says that since the purpose of Street View has nothing to do with people on the streets, and certainly not with running the make and model of cars, it will allow anyone to request a removal without giving any proof that it is their face or their car. That’s an excellent change.
There is one part that is curious:
There was some confusion when Mayer first mentioned the policy change during her keynote. She had said: “We’ve evolved our policy there to be such that (when) a person’s face is seen or a license plate is seen … when we’re alerted to those we are actually taking the panoramas down and blurring the faces and blurring the license plates and then restoring them.”
Later, she clarified that the company does not blur images, but removes them entirely. There are enough overlapping images in a street view that the fact that one image was removed is not apparent to the viewer, she said, explaining her use of the word “blur.”
I hope she got it right the first time. Almost any stretch of sidewalk with lots of people on it will wind up with zero images at all, so assuming that overlapping images will make up for any removal is ignoring the fact that crowds do exist in the real world.
Google has added a long-awaited feature to Google Maps, one that makes it as easy to embed a Google Map as it is to embed a YouTube video. In fact, it’s almost the same procedure.
Just open any map of anything, either a specific location, driving directions, a MyMaps user-created mashup, or anything in between, and click “Link to this page”. You’ll get a frame with a text box containing your embed code, and you can paste it anywhere that supports it, including blogs and social networks. There’s even a link to go to another page to customize your map, editing the size of the map.
Here’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, near my home:
Try as I might, I can’t embed a MyMaps map. No matter what I do, the embedded map just shows the location, not the mashup. That’s a shame, because the ability to create my own mashup is really cool, but it just didn’t work out.
Ever wanted to include a Google Map in your blog, website, or MySpace page, but can’t because of technical restrictions, lack of coding knowledge, or just laziness? Google’s looking to make it damn easier, and next week it will release a new feature that makes embedding Google Maps similar to embedding YouTube videos.
The feature was announced yesterday by Google Australia’s senior product manager Carl Sjogreen, and will work with MyMaps. Users will create maps with MyMaps as they already can, adding placemarks, tracing routes, adding notes, images and links, but now they will be able to grab that map and embed them on their webpages. Hopefully it will be as easy and compatible as a YouTube video, and not use annoying SCRIPT tags.
I’ll have a write-up as soon as it launches.
Google has a program called Local Business Referrals were users can walk into local businesses, get their information (hours of operation, payments accepted) and take some pictures, and get ten dollars a business. Sounds like a fun way to earn some extra cash while walking around, and I’m definitely going to try it out. You can find out more about it here and apply here.