Last Updated: October 12, 2015 1

Getting Started With Google Maps

Found In: Tools

Google Maps was the brain child of two Sydney Australia based Danish brothers who had first developed the application in C++ and first designed it to be downloadable by users onto devices they wanted. They however then pitched the business idea be rebuilt as a purely web based application to Google which acquired it in 2004. With the sheer weight of Google resources behind the project, it has quickly evolved from first only being accessible by Internet Explorer users to now being available on all web based hardware including smart phones and iPhones. Web based access to the information rather than the individual downloading the data is a completely different distribution model which enables one copy of the most up to date data to be accessed as and when required. Millions of copies of different datasets would have been very damaging to the venture’s success, and the two brothers recognized this quite early in its development.

Google Maps Acquired, Then Rebuilt From the Ground Up

Originally called Google Local, Google Maps is more true to its new name. As a web mapping service, the application and its technology now powers a large variety of services and map based web sites. These include Google’s own Ride Finder and Transit using the street maps for route planning whether travelling by foot, bicycle, motor vehicle or by public transport. It even allows for route planning if you are travelling by kayak. Google Maps is very cool for the way it incorporates urban business location information, though this aspect is not yet fully available for all countries.

Unlike Google Earth, Google Maps cannot assist with information at the north and south poles. There are many ways to use and view the information in Google Maps. For example, with the click of a button you can view the geographic area in satellite view. Unfortunately the satellite data is years old, so if the area you are looking at is a newly developing urban area, it will be out of date for the more recent building of roads and infrastructure. In the most established areas, this presents no problems at all. Also, it should be noted that rural areas are not mapped to the same detail view, because satellite mapping resources have always tended to focus more on the higher population centers. Panning around the view area is simple, with a dragging and dropping motion of your mouse to move the view to where you want to see next. Zooming in and out is just as easy, but clicking on the zoom tool bar which causes the viewing area to be repainted at the new desired scale.

What a lot of people don’t know is that in fact Google has often not used satellite provided data and instead has used aerial photography with aircraft flying at between 800 and 1,500 feet so as to be using data that is relatively recent; certainly under five years old and much more detailed than satellite information.

Route planning has always been a very important tool for people to know the best way to get from point A to point B. We are all now quite familiar with the use of the GPS in cars. Yet most cars are not fitted with a GPS. But this presents no problems with Google Maps, which can of course be accessed with any smart phone including the iPhone.

Google Maps Street View Upset Many People

Street View has been a huge undertaking by Google Maps. It is a service which provides a panoramic view taken from vehicle mounted camera equipment. That is, google Maps paid for a small army of people to drive down every street to film the view from this angle, and then to tie it in with GPS coordinates and street name information. Almost the entire USA is now completed, and the Street View information is now available in more than 40 countries. At the time, this part of the Google Maps project created significant complaint by many people claiming their privacy had been invaded. That is, many people were offended by being caught in the camera view, and were upset at being “caught” being somewhere they had told people they weren’t, or were not dressed in a way they wished to be published.

Further angst broke out when it was learned that now only where the camera vehicles photographing the Street View, that onboard computer scanning equipment was also capturing all the data it could from insecure computer networks. This data was stored in the vehicles hard drives, and Google quickly found itself broiled in many Government disputes. The German government for example wanted google to hand over the data, which horrified many privacy organizations. The dispute is ongoing.

Google Maps API is Now Widely Used

Web site and software developers are able to access the Google Maps data by means of an Application Programming Interface (API). This enables google to keep and build up its central repository of maps information, while a growing number of third party applications access the most current information for whatever purpose they have been designed.

So Google Maps has grown to become widely used by millions of people. Ranging from those who wish to print out driving directions to take with them in the car, to search for local businesses with street view type information through to people curious about topographic as well as latitudinal and longitudinal information of points of interest, people can now use any web browser or smart phone device. Web sites can add functionality to their own web site properties, which many real estate agents have found particularly useful. For each property they have listed, Google Maps JavaScript allows users to quickly see where the property is in relation to their current location and other important landmarks. Google is doing its fair share of the work of enabling all of the world’s information to be accessible ubiquitously and seamlessly integrated.