A new version of Google Earth launched today. Unlike previous versions, the desktop version runs in a web browser rather than a standalone app. Also unlike previous versions, it’s no longer cross-platform: for now at least, the desktop version only runs in Chrome, and the mobile app is Android-only.
Frank Taylor has been covering the new release at the venerable Google Earth Blog and has a first review.
For my part, I’ve poked around in it in Chrome a bit and I found it fairly responsive and easy to use. If it runs this well in the browser I can see how a standalone app would be redundant; this is a better delivery method. I would much prefer it, though, if it also ran on platforms that didn’t belong to Google.
Update, 21 April: Coverage from AFP and Geoawesomeness focuses on the features, which I gave short shrift to above.
“Windows 10’s stock Maps app has a drawing tool that’s quite useful, especially if you have a Windows 10 touchscreen PC,” writes Matt Elliott at CNet. In addition to scribbling notes, you can draw a line between two points to get directions and measure the distance of a drawn route. My household is all-Apple so I miss out on things like this on other platforms. [Gretchen Peterson]
Google tends to release wacky things around April 1st, as well as some more serious things (like Gmail). Ms. Pac-Maps is one of the former, and the latest strange thing to be added to Google Maps around this time. In the same vein as the Google Maps Pac-Man feature from 2015, it enables you to play Ms. Pac-Man on the road grid in Google Maps, and runs on the most recent Android and iOS apps as well as on the desktop until April 4th. [The Verge]
Yesterday’s update to Google Maps for Android includes tabs for nearby points of interest, driving information and traffic conditions, and transit schedules and recommendations. More at The Verge.
Previously: Google Roundup for January 2017.
Google Maps has updated its ride services mode in its iOS and Android app, allowing you to book an Uber ride from within the app, and may offer parking availability in an upcoming Android release. [Engadget]
Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, seems to be scaling back its satellite imaging ambitions: it’s apparently in talks to sell its Terra Bella division, which it acquired as Skybox Imaging for $500 million in 2014, to competitor Planet. [Engadget]
The makers of the Transit app (iPhone, Android) like to point out that whereas Apple’s transit maps are beautiful but basically hand-drawn and added manually and slowly, and Google’s maps are algorithmically generated but look terrible, their maps are algorithmically generated but look smooth and neat. A technical post by their backend developer explains in ridiculous detail how they managed to auto-generate their smooth, curved transit network maps.
I’ve just upgraded my iPhone and iPad to iOS 10, but haven’t had a chance to mess with the new version of Apple Maps; iMore and Macworld set out the changes, including integrated services and apps, predictive intelligence, and improvements in driving directions and search, among other things. Also, you can set it to remember where you parked, which isn’t new in and of itself, but is for iOS.
Over the past five years, designer Jug Cerović has produced 40 metro maps using a common, standardized design language. Now he’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to gather them all in a single collection, called One Metro World, in both book and mobile app form. The book in particular sounds lovely: hardbound, printed on quality paper, and with stories about each map—plus 15 of the maps get additional schematics “highlighting network peculiarities as well as map design choices.” [Mark Ovenden]
Previously: INAT London Metro Map.
Bloomberg Businessweek looks at Niantic, the company that developed Pokémon Go, and its CEO, John Hanke, both of whom have a long history in mapping technology (Hanke was the founder and CEO of Keyhole, which became the foundation for Google Earth; Niantic started as a Google startup and focused on location-based apps—including, among other things, the game Ingress—before being spun off).
Hanke says Niantic’s focus has always been its underlying technology, not any one game, and the success of Pokémon Go has already attracted partners interested in using his mapping software for projects of their own. “Maybe you want to build a real-world vampire game where you control a clan of vampires and battle with other clans of vampires,” he says. “You could invest in re-creating our core technology and all of our data, which would require a fairly large team of very sophisticated Ph.D.s, or use our platform.”
Previously: Pokémon Go.
“We made significant changes to all of our development processes because of it,” says Cue, who now oversees Maps. “To all of us living in Cupertino, the maps for here were pretty darn good. Right? So [the problem] wasn’t obvious to us. We were never able to take it out to a large number of users to get that feedback. Now we do.”
Apple senior vice president Eddie Cue, quoted in this Fast Company profile of Apple, on how the Apple Maps debacle changed Apple’s famously insular culture, opening things up to the point that they now have a public beta program. [James Fee]
Google Maps’s new, cleaner look, which rolled out last month and replaces clusters of points of interest with coloured “areas of interest,” “represents the company’s ongoing efforts to transform Maps from a navigational tool to a commercial interface and offers the clearest proof yet that the geographic web—despite its aspirations to universality—is a deeply subjective entity,” writes Henry Grabar in Slate.
TechCrunch looks at some recently announced changes coming to Apple Maps in iOS 10 (added transit and parking information—parking spaces, remembering where you parked—plus the upcoming interface redesign). [James Fee]
Previously: A Preview of Maps in iOS 10.
The Financial Times: “Uber is preparing to pour $500m into an ambitious global mapping project as it seeks to wean itself off dependence on Google Maps and pave the way for driverless cars.” [James Fee]
Google Maps is adding features to its iOS and Android apps to enable its users to add and edit information about points of interest. Edits will be verified by other users before going live. More at TechCrunch. [James Fee]
Google’s low- and medium-resolution satellite imagery has gotten a comprehensive update with new imagery from the Landsat 8 satellite. It’s the first such update to its seamless, cloud-free mosaic in three years. The Atlantic has detailed coverage (that helpfully points out, among other things, that this doesn’t apply to the highest zoom levels: those images come from DigitalGlobe satellites and aerial photography).