Google Maps is a desktop mapping service developed by Google. It offers satellite imagery, street maps, 360° panoramic views of streets (Street View), real-time traffic conditions (Google Traffic), and route planning for traveling by foot, car, public transportation, and bicycle (in beta).
Google Maps first started as a C++ program designed by two Danish brothers, Lars and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen, as the Sydney-based company Where 2 Technologies. First designed to be separately downloaded by users, the company later pitched the idea for a purely Web-based product to Google management, changing the method of distribution. Where 2 Technologies was acquired by Google Inc where the application was transformed into the Google Maps web application. In the same month, Google acquired Keyhole, a geospatial data visualization company whose Earth Viewer marquee application suite emerged as the highly successful Google Earth application in 2005 while other aspects of its core technology were integrated into Google MAps. In September 2004, Google acquired ZipDash, a company that provided real-time traffic analysis.
The Google Maps application was first announced on the Google Blog on February 8, 2005. It originally only supported Internet Explorer and Mozilla web browsers. Support for Opera and Safari was added on February 25, 2005; however, later browser requirements excluded Opera as a supported browser. It was in beta for six months before becoming a part of Google Local on October 6, 2005.
In April 2005, Google created Ride Finder using Google Maps. A month later, Google released the Google Maps API. In July 2005, Google began Google Maps and Google Local services for Japan, including road maps. The same month also saw the introduction of Google Moon in honor of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, Google Maps quickly updated its satellite imagery of New Orleans to allow users to view the extent of the flooding in various parts of the city.
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From January 2006, Google Maps featured road maps for the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and certain cities in the Republic of Ireland. Coverage of the area of Turin, Italy was added in time for the 2006 Winter Olympics. On January 23, Google Maps was updated to use the same satellite image database as Google Earth. On March 12, Google Mars was launched and it features a draggable map and satellite imagery of the planet Mars. In April 2006, Google Local was merged into the main Google Maps site. On June 11, Google satisfied the most developer-requested feature of the service by adding geocoding capabilities to the API. Three days later on June 14, Google Maps for Enterprise was officially launched. As a commercial service, it features intranet and advertisement-free implementations. In the same month, textured 3D building models were added into Google Earth.
In July, Google started including Google Maps business listings in the form of Local OneBoxes in Google search results.
Comparable services and competitors
- Apple Maps – Apple's map service was launched in 2012 with iOS 6 to replace Google Maps on iOS devices
- Bing Maps – Microsoft's mapping service with road maps and aerial/satellite imagery
- Géoportail – a French mapping service offering detailed aerial photographs of French territories
- Mapbox – an online service to build custom maps based on OpenStreetMap
- MapQuest – a mapping service owned by AOL
- NearMap – Australia-specific aerial photography, regularly update (paid subscription service)
- Here – a map service developed by Navteq and Nokia and since 2015 owned by a German automobile consortium
- OpenStreetMap – a royalty-free, editable map of the world
- Terralink International – a mapping service provider for New Zealand
- Waze – similar to Google Maps but also offers right of way indication in satellite mode, along with traffic incidents
- Yahoo! Maps – a defunct mapping service by Yahoo!
- Yandex Maps - a map provider by Yandex for Russia, Turkey, and ex-USSR countries