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