Google Maps is a web mapping service developed by Google. It offers satellite imagery, aerial photography, street maps, 360° interactive panoramic views of streets (Street View), real-time traffic conditions, and route planning for traveling by foot, car, bicycle and air (in beta), or public transportation. In 2020, Google Maps was used by over 1 billion people every month.
Google Maps’ satellite view is a “top-down” or bird’s-eye view; most of the high-resolution imagery of cities is aerial photography taken from aircraft flying at 800 to 1,500 feet (240 to 460 m), while most other imagery is from satellites. Much of the available satellite imagery is no more than three years old and is updated on a regular basis. Google Maps used a variant of the Mercator projection, and therefore could not accurately show areas around the poles. In August 2018, the desktop version of Google Maps was updated to show a 3D globe. It is still possible to switch back to the 2D map in the settings.
Google Maps for Android and iOS devices was released in September 2008 and features GPS turn-by-turn navigation along with dedicated parking assistance features. In August 2013, it was determined to be the world’s most popular app for smartphones, with over 54% of global smartphone owners using it at least once.
In 2012, Google reported having over 7,100 employees and contractors directly working in mapping.
In May 2017, the app has reported to have 2 billion users on Android, along with several other Google services including YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, Search, and Google Play, Google Maps reached over 1 billion monthly users.
Google Maps first started as a C++ program designed by two Danish brothers, Lars and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen, at the Sydney-based company Where 2 Technologies. It was first designed to be separately downloaded by users, but the company later pitched the idea for a purely Web-based product to Google management, changing the method of distribution. In October 2004, the company was acquired by Google Inc. where it transformed into the web application Google Maps. In the same month, Google acquired Keyhole, a geospatial data visualization company (with investment from the CIA), whose marquee application suite, Earth Viewer, 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 realtime traffic analysis.
Google Maps Beta in 2005
The launch of Google Maps was first announced on the Google Blog on February 8, 2005.
In September 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Google Maps quickly updated its satellite imagery of New Orleans to allow users to view the extent of the flooding in various parts of that city.
Original Google Maps icon
On November 28, 2007, Google Maps for Mobile 2.0 was released. It featured a beta version of a “My Location” feature, which uses the GPS / Assisted GPS location of the mobile device, if available, supplemented by determining the nearest wireless networks and cell sites. The software looks up the location of the cell site using a database of known wireless networks and sites. By triangulating the different signal strengths from cell transmitters and then using their location property (retrieved from the database), My Location determines the user’s current location.
On September 23, 2008, coinciding with the announcement of the first commercial Android device, Google announced that a Google Maps app had been released for its Android operating system.
In October 2009, Google replaced Tele Atlas as their primary supplier of geospatial data in the US version of Maps and used their own data.