Recent satellite imagery reveals the extent of Russian defensive fortifications built in the past few months in occupied territory in anticipation of Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive: see coverage from CNN and Reuters. Meanwhile, Maps Mania reports that Google Maps’ updated satellite imagery of Ukraine shows the damage inflicted by the Russian invasion.
Tag: Google Maps
Google Maps as Social Space (and Time Waster)
Writing for The Atlantic, Will Peischel suggests an alternative to wasting all your time on social media: wasting all your time poking around in Google Maps.
Google Maps’ main purpose is to enable people to get directions and look up businesses. But along the way, it has become a social space too. Sort of. To fill out the world map it created, Google invited people to add snippets to all the digital places. You upload your photos; you leave your reviews; you look at the artifacts others have left behind. The pictures of a restaurant on Google Maps are often a mismatched succession of interior-design shots, flash photos of messy plates, and outdated menus. There’s plenty of detritus too: irrelevant photos, businesses that don’t exist, three-star reviews without an explanation.
The result is random and messy in a way that is different from the rest of the social web. […] But especially as algorithmic content has taken over the web, many of the surprises don’t feel fresh. They are our kind of surprises. Google Maps offers something many other platforms no longer can: a hodgepodge of truly unfamiliar stuff that hasn’t been packaged for your taste or mine. […] Because zooming out and scrolling around are so easy, you can bump into little treasures at every turn that would never land on an Instagram feed.
Google Maps to Upgrade Its Coverage of U.S. National Parks
Google Maps will be improving its coverage of U.S. national parks: an update later this month to both the Android and iOS versions will add park attractions, trail maps (and directions to the trailhead) and offline park maps. [Jalopnik/TechCrunch]
How Google Deals with Fake Content on Google Maps
In a blog post last Friday, Google offers some detail on how it combats fraudulent user-submitted content on Google Maps. These include fake business profiles, fake reviews, contributed photos with fake phone numbers—it’s basically about business listings. (There was a time, of course, when fake user-submitted content was to the map itself.) They report something like 115 million reviews, 200 million photos and 20 million fake business profiles—no wonder they’re using machine learning to deal with it all. (Compare with Google’s February 2021 post on the same subject: the numbers are up.)
Previously: Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake: WSJ; How Many Fake Business Listings Are There on Google Maps?
Google Maps Updates (February 2023)
Updates to Google Maps announced earlier this month include a rollout of immersive view—first announced last year—in the previously announced cities of London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo (the rollout is delayed somewhat: it was promised for later this year last year), with more cities, including Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence and Venice, coming soon [Engadget]. Also announced: an expansion of the augmented-reality Live View feature (previously: 1, 2) to more cities and indoor venues [AppleInsider]; “glanceable directions” enabling navigation from the lock screen (“in the coming months”) [9to5Google]; and improved charging station search results for electric vehicles with built-in Google search [Jalopnik].
Previously: Immersive View and the Death of Consumer Maps.
Online Map Roundup for January 2023
Apple Maps now provides parking information for 8,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Apple also launched Business Connect, a tool for businesses to upload their information to be used by Apple’s various apps: not just Maps, though that’s obvious (and something Google has been offering for quite some time: see James’s post for context). More at Ars Technica.
The first cars to get Google’s enhanced maps (previously), which include things like traffic lights and stop signs, will be the Volvo EX90 and Polestar 3, via Android Auto.
Meanwhile, turn-by-turn directions on Google’s Wear OS smart watch platform will no longer require a connected smartphone.
The Privacy Implications of a Slight URL Change
Garrit Franke thinks a change in Google Maps’s web address—it now redirects from a subdirectory, maps.google.com, to a folder on Google’s root directory, google.com/maps1—means that location permission given to Google Maps (a normal thing to do when using maps) could be applied across all of Google’s services without asking for additional permissions. [Daring Fireball/Lat × Long]
Immersive View and the Death of Consumer Maps
Pointing to Google Maps and Apple Maps, with their extensive street-level and flyover imagery, James Killick believes that maps for the consumer are moving away from symbolic representation and toward creating digital models of the real world that, he says, are not maps. “It’s all part of a trend, a downward trend in my opinion, that will result demise of consumer maps. Contrary to Beck’s approach to distill reality into its essential essence we’re moving in the opposite direction. [¶] We are instead on a path to the dreaded metaverse, a virtual world where we should all be thankful and glad to wander around as legless avatars with the aspirational goal of reaching social media nirvana. I don’t know about you, but, ugh.” [Lat × Long]
Report: Google to Shut Down Standalone Street View App
According to 9to5Google, Google looks like it’s getting ready to shut down its standalone Street View app (previously). “This standalone app served two distinct groups of people—those who wanted to deeply browse Street View and those who wanted to contribute their own 360° imagery. Considering the more popular Google Maps app has Street View support and Google offers a ‘Street View Studio’ web app for contributors, it should be no surprise to learn that the company is now preparing to shut down the Street View app.” If their report is correct, the shutdown would take place next March. [The Verge]
Online Map Roundup for August 2022
Google Maps sends people looking for abortion providers to so-called crisis pregnancy centres, which discourage the procedure, Bloomberg reports.
Also in Bloomberg, Mark Gurman discusses Apple’s plans to expand its advertising business, which apparently includes adding ads to Apple Maps.
Apple’s cycling maps now include Hawaii, and its detailed 3D cities now include Atlanta, Miami and Seattle. They’re also testing their upgraded maps in Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
Google Maps updates outlined in a blog post last month include cycling route information, location sharing, and photorealistic aerial views of major landmarks.
Instagram announced a searchable map feature last month, expanding its map feature beyond geolocating posts. This, after a Google VP noted that young users are using apps and TikTok for discovery purposes rather than Google’s Search or Maps. You wouldn’t think that Instagram and TikTok qualify as map apps, but the street finds its uses.
Online Map Roundup: Apple Maps in iOS 16, Google Maps Displays Tolls, Yandex Erases Borders
Apple Maps in iOS 16 will gain multi-stop routing, which I thought was a long-established feature on other platforms, as well as transit fare/card/pass integration. Apple’s new maps will also expand to more countries, and its detailed city maps will expand to more cities in the U.S., Australia and Canada. 9to5Mac has a summary.
As announced in April, Google Maps now displays estimated toll prices when routing.
Russian search engine Yandex is sidestepping the Russian invasion of Ukraine, frozen conflicts and other contested national borders by simply removing national borders from its map. It’s being spun as a pivot to local navigation. (Sure.)
Google I/O: Immersive View and Other Updates to Google Maps
Three updates to Google Maps were announced at Google I/O today. The big one is an immersive view mode that creates a digital model of a city from aerial imagery and Street View: it’s coming later this year to London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, with more cities coming later. It’s not just about 3D models of buildings—Apple’s got those—but also interiors, as Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated in the keynote.
Also announced: an expansion of eco-friendly routing to Europe and making Live View available to third-party apps. More coverage: Engadget, TechCrunch, The Verge.
Google Didn’t Stop Obscuring Imagery of Russian Military Sites Because the Imagery Hadn’t Been Obscured in the First Place
Yesterday, reports that Google Maps had stopped obscuring satellite imagery of sensitive Russian military facilities spread like wildfire across Twitter. Only there was no official announcement from Google saying they’d done so, and while Ukrainian Twitter was seriously running with it, I wanted to see some confirmation from the mapping side. In the event, an update to Ars Technica’s story says that Google hadn’t stopped blurring the imagery—the imagery hadn’t been blurred in the first place. “A Google spokesperson told Ars that the company hasn’t changed anything with regard to blurring out sensitive sites in Russia, so perhaps none of us were looking closely until now.”
Google Maps Updates Announced
Updates to Google Maps announced today include estimated prices for toll roads as well as increased navigation detail. “You’ll soon see traffic lights and stop signs along your route, along with enhanced details like building outlines and areas of interest. And, in select cities, you’ll see even more detailed information, like the shape and width of a road, including medians and islands–you can better understand where you are, and help decrease the odds of making last-minute lane changes or missing a turn.” There are also updates specific to the Apple platform: iPhone and iPad users will get new widgets, Siri and Spotlight integration, and Apple Watch support. The updates will be rolling out gradually: some in a few weeks, some later this summer.
Traffic Data Inadvertently Revealed the Start of the Russian Invasion
AppleInsider looks at how online maps (Apple Maps, Google Maps), especially their traffic layer, inadvertently revealed Russian troop movements at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The sheer volume of mapping data now available at our fingertips means it was possible for civilians half a world away to see when Russian forces began moving. Specifically, that data pinpointed a traffic jam starting on the Russian side of the border, actively moving into Ukraine in the first few minutes of the Russian and Ukraine conflict.
Just as with any cartography, this information required interpreting. Google Maps did not specifically say that it was troop movements, nor was its satellite imagery up to the minute. During the process of researching this story, we’ve confirmed that Apple Maps presented similar inbound troop movement information—but it wasn’t setting out to do that either.
What these services did, though, was register all of the smartphone users whose driving was slowed or halted by unusual traffic conditions. Wherever the majority of the data came from, it was possible to determine what was happening when coupled with known details of Russian troop locations.
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