Google Maps UK and Google Local UK | April 19, 2005

A couple of months ago, Google released their excellent mapping service called Google Maps. The service impressed many with a slick interface that allowed people to literally drag the maps around. This may sound like eye candy but it actually has very practical uses.

Last Friday I went up to London to see various people and tried to use multimap and streetmap to plan my trip. When I typed in my destination I was presented with a small map showing my destination in the centre. What I wanted to do was move my location to the very edge of the map so I could see if there were any nearby tube stops. However pressing left or right either moved the destination a little off centre, or completely off the map. At the time I remember thinking how great it would be if I could simply drag the maps around like Google maps, so I could quickly see if there was a tube stop near by.

Unfortunately Google Maps was only released in the US and many people, including myself, assumed it would take forever to launch in the UK. I believed this partly because of the track record of another of Googles geographic service, Google Local. This is an excellent service that provides local search results in the US. You type in what your looking for along with a location and Google will try to find relevant search results in your area. This service was launched in the States ages ago and hadn’t made it to the UK. If that hadn’t launched yet, the chance of Google Maps making it to the UK any time soon looked slim.

How wrong could I be. Today I learned that both Google Maps UK and Google Local UK have just been launched. First impressions of both services were very good. The maps look as slick as their US versions and the interface just as responsive. The direction finder drew the right directions on the map for everywhere I tried, and navigating around London was a doddle. A local search on Thai, bought up all the Thai restaurants near my house. A local search on my name bought up my old employers site, Message, along with some other, slightly odder results.

Once Google Maps catches on in the UK, I think sites like multimap and streetmap are going to find them selves in difficult times. They have sat on their dominant positions for a long time and a much bigger company has just pulled the rug from under their feet. These mapping companies make most of their money from selling their services to industry, so they will be fine for now. However it probably won’t be long before Google start selling their mapping services to industry as they currently do with their search technology. Will this be a wake-up call to other mapping companies, or will the go the same way as those who tried to compete with Google in the search market?

Posted at April 19, 2005 8:50 PM


Andy said on April 19, 2005 10:59 PM

I too am surprised by the speed with which they have released the UK version of Google Maps.

There’s no doubt the interface is super slick, and frankly a joy to use compared with the clunkier UI’s we are used to.

I guess the ball’s in the likes of Streetmap’s and Multimap’s court on that front.

tq said on April 19, 2005 11:16 PM

Agreed - the interface is so good, I can now delete my multimap bookmarks…

Rob McMichael said on April 19, 2005 11:28 PM

This is great news, hope they sort out the arial photographs soon too :)

However they are still a little buggy, or perhaps it’s using this route to keep me fit

WillB said on April 19, 2005 11:44 PM

You’re definitely not the only one who will be surprised by this development.

I’m looking forward to the integration of satellite photos.

Thanks for the tip-off.

Tom said on April 20, 2005 12:10 AM

Multimap is the better of the two, although I have found streetmap useful for getting long and lat.

When you see an aerial image you get the normal map when you hover over, this is a nice feature and something that could be ported over to Google.

The problem is Multimaps aerial images are shite, apparently they want to sell me a print. No thanks.

Oh and some of Google is a bit ropey, searching for places like Lundy, and New Street Station confused it a little.

When they get it all sorted out, multimap will be like so last week. Sorry Clagnut

Mark said on April 20, 2005 8:57 AM

Richard Rutter aka Clagnut (who works at Multimap) is no slouch on the old JS, I wouldn’t be surprised if he already has this in development.

Andy said on April 20, 2005 9:17 AM

Google still seem to have a lot of data errors. My route to work I counted 4 out of 10 stations either with the wrong name or in the wrong place.

Wonderful example of the technology though - when we have a bit more confidence in the data they’ll be a big threat.

Sander said on April 20, 2005 10:40 AM

Shame it seems I’m not able to create a link that selects a particular option from the menu on the right as a speech bubble popup.

Any ideas? It’s not possible to link to a place directly.

Chris said on April 20, 2005 12:44 PM

It’s a good, but very basic service, thus far. The maps aren’t anywhere near as detailed as the ones.

More importantly, the google maps seems to lack Lewisham, Blackheath and other main train stations, and much of the Canary Wharf area is largely blank.

It will eventually be better, I suspect, but it still needs a bit of work, yet.

Kim Siever said on April 20, 2005 3:14 PM

I should point out that “Google Maps UK” as you called it covers Ireland as well as the UK.

Richard Rutter said on April 20, 2005 3:52 PM

Yeah, watch this space for what Multimap comes up with.

It will also be interesting to see how and when starts to monetize their maps. They won’t be (advert) free forever.

Rob Babcock said on April 20, 2005 10:06 PM

I tried the Google Maps UK for driving directions and got quite a different result from I’m planning a golf trip and got directions from Woodhall Spa (LN10 6PU) to Hunstanton (PE36 6JQ). In both cases the distance given was 67 miles, but said the driving time would be 1:50 while had the driving time at 2:29. Anyone with local knowledge care to comment as to which is more accurate? Many other directions searches yielded similarly different (can you say that?) results.

Adrian said on April 20, 2005 10:14 PM

Did Google forget that the speed limits in the UK are higher than those in the US and forget to edit that particular piece of code when setting it up?

Trevor said on April 21, 2005 9:42 AM

Love Google Maps, but it’s not entirely accurate. The first thing I tried was my home postcode… which told me I lived in the next street. :)

JH said on April 22, 2005 12:51 PM

To Kim Siever - no, it doesn’t really cover Ireland yet in any meaningful way.

Sure, the maps cover the republic - you can manually pan and zoom to places in Ireland - but it has no idea of those maps’ content. Try searching for ‘Cork’ to see what I mean.

goodwitch said on April 22, 2005 10:09 PM

I’ll admit, I’m still totally addicted to GPS enabled Pocket Streets and Trips on my PDA. The moment that 4 satellites saw me and mapped me correctly onto the map on my PDA was quite a thrill…until my husband walked out to see what I was doing on the front lawn…and responded with “so, now you know where you are. big deal.”

I swear!

Margarida said on April 24, 2005 12:33 PM

Oh, I didn’t know about google map, it’s pretty cool, specially the details in the stresses and the satellite. I hope they’ll release the European version or something.

Ed Keay-Smith said on April 24, 2005 5:24 PM

This looks like a great tool, I like even more Google’s Keyhole technology.

Keyhole combines aerial and satellite imagery,
3D geography, maps, and business information, very cool to use!!

I love this stuff.

Mike Hill said on November 29, 2005 8:03 AM

Google Maps are very useful tools - but why no Motorway junction numbers?