Monday, December 08, 2008

The Year in Google Maps

The Google Maps team have been incredibly busy in 2008 and hardly a month has gone by without a huge new announcement or an amazing new feature added to Google Maps.

Street view coverage has expanded this year and has reached beyond the shores of the USA for the first time. This year street view was made available in France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Wikipedia and Panoramio layers have been added to Google Maps and in December Google Maps was given a complete redesign.

On the API front we saw the release of the Google Earth API, the Static Maps API and the Google Maps for Flash API. We also saw a number of new features added to the Google Maps API.

Here is 2008 on Google Maps:

In January Google added new search options to Google Maps. The new options made it possible to search Google Maps within 'Locations', 'Businesses', 'User Created Content' or in 'Everything'.


The Google Static Maps API was released. The Google Static Maps API provides a simpler way to add maps to your website. Rather than use JavaScript, the Google Static Maps API creates a special URL as the src attribute within an image tag.

In February Google also announced a new Google Maps feature to refine search results on a map by 'Neighborhood' or 'User Rating'. For example, if you search for pizza restaurants in New York you might be given a bewildering number of results. Using 'Neighborhood' you can refine your search by restricting the results to those restaurants in Staten Island. You can further refine the results by selecting 'User Rating' and restricting the results to those restaurants that have been given four stars or above.

In March Google added street view to the Google Maps API. This allows map developers to add street view to their maps. Since March there has been a huge uptake of this option particularly in real estate mash-ups.

March also saw the release of Google Sky. Google Sky is Google Maps for the rest of the universe, allowing you to explore the night sky.

In March Google also expanded its street view coverage in the US to another 13 towns and cities.

Google also started allowing user edits in the US, Australia and New Zealand. This new option allows users to edit the location of their house, business or other places, update phone numbers and websites.

Google added an option to view street view within driving directions. Since April where street view is available a small camera appears next to each step in the driving directions given by Google.

In April Google Maps also added a new search option, Mapped Web Pages. If you choose this option Google searches web pages for mentions of your search term alongside a location. It then extracts a snippet of the relevant text and tags it on Google Maps.

Google also added a 'traffic predictor'. When you now press the 'traffic' button (which only appears in the areas that Google provides traffic data) a new traffic control appears on the map, so you can view live traffic conditions.


In May Google released the Google Earth Browser plugin to bring Google Earth to your browser. Google also released the Google Earth API so you can even add Google Earth to your own web site.

Google Maps added two new layers allowing users to view Wikipedia articles and Panoramio photos on Google Maps.

The Google Maps API for Flash was also released.

Google released Google Map Maker. Map Maker allows you to add or edit features, such as roads, businesses, parks and schools on Google Maps. Initially Map Maker was only available in 17 countries. It is now available in over 120 countries.

Google released Street View for France. In July Google released street view for the Tour de France route. This was the first release of street view outside of the US.

Street view launched in Australia. In August Australia became the third country to get street view imagery.

Street View in Japan was also released in August.

In September Google extended Google Map Maker to include 77 countries.

In September walking directions were added to the Google Maps API, allowing map developers to include walking directions in their maps.

Walking directions and street view were also made available for mobile users in September.

'Satellite', 'hybrid' and 'terrain' views were made available to the Google Static Maps API.


All roads lead to Rome and in October so did street view with its launch in Italy.

In October Google also released street view in Spain.

The Wikipedia and Panoramio layers were added to the Google Maps API.

Google Maps was given a major redesign in November. Google Maps' new user interface means Google Earth and Google Maps now have a more consistent design. The new Google Maps design also gives greater prominence to street view.

Google also released road maps for Argentina in November and the option to read translated reviews of local businesses in Google Maps.

In November there was also a small election in the USA. To mark the occasion the Google Maps team created a 2008 Elections Map Gallery and on the night of the election had a live results map.

Street view New Zealand was launched.

The Google Earth Blog has posted on The Year 2008 in Google Earth

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