2009 has been another busy year for the Google Maps team. The Google Maps API finally came out of 'beta', Street View imagery continued to be added to new countries around the world and new layers were added to Google Maps.
The biggest news of the year was probably the release of Google Maps Navigation (Beta) for Android 2.0 devices. Google Maps Navigation comes with everything you'd expect to find in a GPS navigation system, like 3D views, turn-by-turn voice guidance and automatic rerouting.
In December Google released 'Aerial View' in the Google Maps API. Aerial View is very similar to Bing Maps' Bird's Eye View. Whilst Aerial View is only available in the Google Maps API for now, I'm fairly sure it will graduate to the Google Maps site in 2010.
Here's 2009's Google Maps and Google Maps API releases in a little more detail:
In January Google added bathymetry imagery to Google Earth and Google Maps. Also in January Google added a new 'Transit' layer. The Transit Layer overlays public transit lines on Google Maps. Think of a virtual metro map on top of Google Maps.
In February Google launched Google Latitude. Latitude is a mobile phone map tool that allows users to track friends and family in real-time.
In February Google also allowed Google Maps API users to start adding the new Google Maps UI controls. On the main Google Maps page Google started adding many more local searches. Until February Google Maps only plotted the first page of business results, now Google Maps plots hundreds more of local search results as small circles.
Google also launched My Tracks. My Tracks is an application for Android-powered phones that uses a phone's built-in GPS to record your trails. Using the application it is possible to visualise and share recorded trails on Google Maps.
In March Google released Street View imagery for the first time in the UK.
The Google Maps API team released a new GoogleBar control in the Maps API to allow users to search maps for local businesses, landmarks and points of interest. Map developers can use the map control to monetise their maps via advertising targeted to the user's searches in the results.
In March, a few years after its first release, the Google Maps API came out of 'beta'.
The main Google Maps site started adding Google My Maps and kml's to Google search results in Google Maps.
In April a new webcams layer was added to Google Maps.
Google added a couple of new options in driving directions on Google Maps. The first allows you to save your finished directions as a Google My Map. This makes it easy to share your driving directions with friends.
A new tool called 'Draw a line along roads' was also added. With this tool when you drag a line it should snap automatically to follow the line of the roads on the map.
Google also launched a Mapplets API Demo Gallery and a full-screen option for Google Maps Street View.
In March the Google Earth Browser plugin gained a number of new features. The new features mean it is now possible to explore the world's oceans underwater, record and play back narrated tours, view historical imagery, and explore Mars in 3D directly from the browser.
In May Google released Google Maps API v3. The main features of the new release are faster rendering of maps, better implementation of maps on mobile devices and better geo-coding.
In May Google also announced the release of the Maps Ad Unit. The Google Maps Ad Unit is a new way for Google Maps API developers to monetise their Google Maps mashups. The ad units update with geographically relevant ads as the user pans the map.
May also saw the introduction of the Google Maps Data API. The Google Maps Data API allows client applications to view, store and update map data in the form of Google Data API feeds using a data model of features (placemarks, lines and shapes) and maps (collections of features).
The Google Maps Data API also provides free hosting and bandwidth for your map data. The geodata is available across platforms; web, mobile phone, 3D applications, or even command lines. Geodata from the Google Maps Data API can be instantly indexed and made searchable in Google Maps.
Google added a new feature to the right-click menu on Google Maps. The new feature, 'What's here?', when clicked, gives you the most relevant results representing a location, whether it's a specific address, a natural entity, or a place name.
In June Google also launched Google City Tours. The application allows anyone to identify points of interest and plan multi-day trips in major cities. Users specify the location of their hotel and the length of their trip and City Tours maps out an itinerary.
Google also added voice search to Google Maps on Android phones.
In Street View Google added a layer to view user photographs and some new navigational tools. The navigational tools add rectangular overlays on top of Street View that when double clicked zoom you into the view. There are also round overlays that let you jump down a street and other rectangular overlays that let you jump down a street and pan to a particular view.