So, there’s definitely boatloads of buzz about Google Maps, thanks to what might be the slickest presentation of any application on the web.
Maps and driving directions have long been one of the killer apps of the Web. It’s such that it’s hard to remember what it was like pre-Web, getting lengthy directions from friends, or puzzling over torn and stained maps. Maps are one place where our cultural behavior fundamentally changed — when having a party, it’s perfectly acceptable supplying just your address and maybe a link to it on Mapquest — we know that our guests can figure out the rest.
Maps on the Web haven’t seen a lot of evolution since MapQuest launched in 1996. They’ve mostly just larded them up with paid placements — don’t you want to find a Holiday Inn near wherever it was you were searching?
This was pretty much the only innovation in mapping for years, until very recently, when Yahoo included traffic on your Maps.
(The traffic is good ’cause I grabbed this at 10:15p)
But all these innovations stayed within the same interaction model — type in addresses, submit, wait for the next page to load, see a result. If you want to move around the map, you click arrows around the outside of the map, and wait while the page reloads. Just last weekend, I used Yahoo Maps to get directions to a friend’s place for the Superbowl, and spent many minutes zooming, clicking arrows, and all trying to get oriented.
Google Maps, apart from simply looking good, changes everything through one simple thing — panning. (It’s also nice that you can make the map as large as your browser window). No longer do you have to zoom out, re-center, zoom in, wait for reloads, all that. Maybe it’s just the novelty, but I love entering driving directions, zooming in so I can’t see the whole thing, and click the numbers down the right hand side of the page, imagining the car following the purple route.