Our observations of changes in the Google Maps site have been explained. Google's product management group has merged 'Maps' and 'Local' together to make just.. "Google Local". When you enter http://maps.google.com (.co.uk and .co.jp for those of you in the UK and Japan), you will now arrive at http://local.google.com(.. .co.uk and .co.jp). Maps also gets a passing grade from Google Labs and sees the removal of its "beta" status. Even though Google changed its name, Google Maps still gets to hear its name at graduation. :)
Google Maps product manager Bret Taylor may have also seen a title change through all of this.. In this PCMagazine article about the service change, Bret is now implied as being the Google Local Product Manager. From the article: "Google is all about search efficiency," says product manager Bret Taylor. "And I think we've made a lot of strides in terms of efficiency by combining the two services." Bret has done a fantastic job steering Google Maps through its early inception, Hurricane Katrina imagery additions and now this transition.
This merge does make a "world" of sense. The cornerstone of the two services is maps, and it doesn't make any sense to have to switch between the two services as an end-user. In countries like China, Google Maps was first launched as Google Local (http://bendi.google.com) and this BBC discussion with Lorraine Twohill implies that new countries not yet with street mapping will get Google Local first instead of 'Maps' followed by 'Local'. This change moves Google Maps from a pure-play mapping tool to an interactive business directory which may start to answer the question: "How does Google justify and make money on Google Maps"?
The burning question from all of this is... Will Google Maps Mania change its name as well?? Google Maps Mania will remain, even in lieu of the name change. It will remind all of us where Google Local started. Besides, "Google Local Mania" just doesn't have a good ring to it.
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