Google Maps

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Google Maps
Google maps logo.png
Google Maps directions.png
Screenshot of Google Maps showing a route from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Interstate 5.
Type of site Web mapping
Registration No
Available language(s) Multilingual
Owner Google
Created by Google
Current status Active

Google Maps (for a time named Google Local) is a web mapping service application and technology provided by Google, free (for non-commercial use), that powers many map-based services, including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder, Google Transit,[1] and maps embedded on third-party websites via the Google Maps API.[2] It offers street maps, a route planner for traveling by foot, car, or public transport and an urban business locator for numerous countries around the world.

Google Maps uses the Mercator projection, so it cannot show areas around the poles. A related product is Google Earth, a stand-alone program for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, SymbianOS, and iPhone OS which offers more globe-viewing features, including showing polar areas.

Satellite view

Google Maps provides high-resolution satellite images for most urban areas in Canada, and the United States (including Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) as well as parts of Australia and many countries. Google Maps also covers many cities.

Various governments have complained about the potential for terrorists to use the satellite images in planning attacks.[3] Google has blurred some areas for security (mostly in the United States),[4] including the U.S. Naval Observatory area (where the official residence of the Vice President is located), and previously[citation needed] the United States Capitol and the White House (which formerly featured this erased housetop). Other well-known government installations, including Area 51 in the Nevada desert, are visible. Not all areas on satellite images are covered in the same resolution. Places that are less populated are usually not covered in as much detail as populated areas. In some areas, there are patches of clouds which make the map cluttered.[5]

With the introduction of an easily pannable and searchable mapping and satellite imagery tool, Google's mapping engine prompted a surge of interest in satellite imagery. Sites were established which feature satellite images of interesting natural and man-made landmarks, including such novelties as "large type" writing visible in the imagery, as well as famous stadia and unique geological formations. As of November 2008, the U.S. National Weather Service also now uses Google Maps within its local weather forecasts, showing the 5 times 5 km "point forecast" squares used in forecast models.[6]

Although Google uses the word satellite, most of the high-resolution imagery is aerial photography taken from airplanes rather than from satellites.[7]


Google Maps directions work:

  • Contiguously in North America: Alaska*, Canada* and United States*.
  • Contiguously in Europe: Albania^, Andorra, Austria*, Belarus^, Belgium*, Bosnia and Herzegovina^, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic*, Denmark*, Estonia, France*, Finland*, Germany*, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy*, Latvia, Liechtenstein*, Lithuania, Luxembourg*, Macedonia^, Malta^, Moldova^, Montenegro^, Monaco*, The Netherlands*, Norway*, Poland*, Portugal*, Romania^, San Marino, Serbia^, Slovakia*, Slovenia, Spain*, Sweden*, Switzerland*, Ukraine^, United Kingdom*, Vatican City (i.e., all of Europe, excluding Russia*, Iceland and Turkey*).
  • Contiguously in South East Asia: Singapore*, Malaysia* and Thailand
  • Single countries: Argentina, Australia*, Brazil*, Borneo*^, Chile*, China*, India*, Israel (and parts of the West Bank), Hawaii*, Hong Kong*, Japan*, Java, New Zealand*, Puerto Rico*, Russia* (Moscow area only), Sumatra^, South Korea*, Taiwan*, US Virgin Islands*.

^ = not all roads are featured in this country, so directions are limited.

* = has directions and places of interest. ==Implementation== Like many other Google web applications, Google Maps uses JavaScript extensively. As the user drags the map, the grid squares are downloaded from the server and inserted into the page. When a user searches for a business, the results are downloaded in the background for insertion into the side panel and map; the page is not reloaded. Locations are drawn dynamically by positioning a red pin (composed of several partially-transparent PNGs) on top of the map images.

A hidden IFrame with form submission is used because it preserves browser history. The site also uses JSON for data transfer rather than XML, for performance reasons. These techniques both fall under the broad Ajax umbrella.

The geographic information system data used in Google Maps are provided by Tele Atlas.

Extensibility and customization

As Google Maps is coded almost entirely JavaScript and XML, some end users have reverse-engineered the tool and produced client-side scripts and server-side hooks which allowed a user or website to introduce expanded or customized features into the Google Maps interface.

Using the core engine and the map/satellite images hosted by Google, such tools can introduce custom location icons, location coordinates and metadata, and even custom map image sources into the Google Maps interface. The script-insertion tool Greasemonkey provides a large number of client-side scripts to customize Google Maps data.

Combinations with photo sharing websites, such as Flickr, are used to create "memory maps". Using copies of the Keyhole satellite photos, users have taken advantage of image annotation features to provide personal histories and information regarding particular points of the area.

Google Maps API

Google created the Google Maps API to allow developers to integrate Google Maps into their websites with their own data points. It is a free service, and currently does not contain ads, but Google states in their terms of use that they reserve the right to display ads in the future.[8]

By using the Google Maps API, it is possible to embed the full Google Maps site into an external website. Developers are required to request an API key,[9] which is bound to the website and directory entered when creating the key. The Google Maps API key is no longer required for API version 3. Creating a customized map interface requires adding the Google JavaScript code to a page, and then using Javascript functions to add points to the map.

When the API first launched, it lacked the ability to geocode addresses, requiring users to manually add points in (latitude, longitude) format. This feature has since been added.

At the same time as the release of the Google Maps API, Yahoo! released its own Maps API.[10] The releases coincided with the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Conference. Yahoo! Maps, which lacks international support, included a geocoder in the first release.

As of October 2006, the implementation of Google Gadgets' Google Maps is simpler, requiring only one line of script, but it is not as customizable as the full API.

In 2006, Yahoo began a campaign to upgrade their maps to compete better with Google and other online map companies. Several of the maps used in a survey were similar to Google maps.

Google Maps actively promotes the commercial use of its API. One of its first large-scale adopters were real estate mashup sites. Google performed a case study[11] about Nestoria, a property search engine in the UK and Spain.

As of 2015, many companies such as Uber, Lyft, Postmates, & use a Google Maps interface for their web maps.

Google Maps API Sample Project: *Mapping Global Airports (8000+) With Google Maps API Google Maps API allows for developers to map large datasets

Web Maps with Google Maps JavaScript API: *Custom Map Making For Better Maps Embeds The Google Maps API is fully customizable & allows you to creat fast-loading digital maps for mobile/desktop responsive viewing.

Google Maps for Mobile

In 2006, Google introduced a Java application called Google Maps for Mobile, which is intended to run on any Java-based phone or mobile device. Many of the web-based site's features are provided in the application.[12]

On November 28, 2007, Google Maps for Mobile 2.0 was released. It introduced a GPS-like location service that does not require a GPS receiver. The "my location" feature works by utilizing the GPS location of the mobile device, if it is available. This information is supplemented by the software determining the nearest cell site. The software then looks up the location of the cell site using a database of known cell sites. The software plots the streets in blue that are available with a yellow icon and a green circle around the estimated range of the cell site based on the transmitter's rated power (among other variables). The estimate is refined using the strength of the cell phone signal to estimate how close to the cell site the mobile device is.

As of December 15, 2008 (2008 -12-15), this service is available for the following platforms:[13]

  • Android
  • iPhone OS (iPhone/iPod Touch)
  • Windows Mobile
  • Nokia/Symbian (S60 3rd edition only)
  • Symbian OS (UIQ v3)
  • BlackBerry
  • Phones with Java-Platform (MIDP 2.0 and up), for example the Sony Ericsson K800i
  • Palm OS (Centro and newer)

Google Maps parameters

In Google Maps, URL parameters may be tweaked to offer views and options not normally available through on-screen controls.

For instance, the maximum zoom level offered is normally 18, but if higher-resolution images are available, changing the z parameter, which sets the zoom level, will allow the user to access them, as in this view of elephants or this view of people at a well deep in Chad, Africa using the parameter z=23.

A list of Google Maps parameters and their descriptions is available.

Development history

Google Maps first started as a software application developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen for the company Where 2 Technologies. In October 2004 the company was acquired by Google Inc[14] where it transformed into the web application Google Maps. The application was first announced on the Google Blog on February 8, 2005,[15] and was located at It originally only supported users of Internet Explorer and Mozilla web browsers, but support for Opera and Safari was added on February 25, 2005. Currently (December 15, 2008) Internet Explorer 7.0+, Firefox, Safari 3+, Mozilla 1.8+, Chrome 0.2 and Opera 8.02+ are supported.[16] It was in beta for six months before becoming part of Google Local on October 6, 2005.

  • In April 2005, an alternate view was activated to show satellite images of the area displayed.
  • In April 2005, Google created Google Ride Finder using Google Maps.
  • In June 2005, Google released the Google Maps API.
  • In July 2005, Google began Google Maps and Google Local services for Japan, including road maps.
  • On July 22, 2005, Google released "Hybrid View". Together with this change, the satellite image data was converted from plate carrée to Mercator projection, which makes for a less distorted image in the temperate climes latitudes.
  • In July 2005, in honor of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, Google Moon was launched.
  • 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. (Oddly, in March 2007, imagery showing hurricane damage was replaced with images from before the storm; this replacement was not made on Google Earth, which still uses post-Katrina imagery.) [17][18]
  • As of January 2, 2006 (2006 -01-02), Google Maps features road maps for the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and certain cities in the Republic of Ireland. Coverage of the area around Turin was added in time for the 2006 Winter Olympics.
  • On January 23, 2006, Google Maps was updated to use the same satellite image database as Google Earth.
    Google Maps promotional livery on New York City subway cars, Nov. 2008
  • On March 12, 2006, Mars[19] was launched, which features a draggable map and satellite imagery of the planet Mars.
  • In April 2006, Google Local was merged into the main Google Maps site.
  • On April 3, 2006, version 2 of the Maps API was released.
  • On June 11, 2006, Google added geocoding capabilities to the API, satisfying what it called the most requested feature for this service.
  • On June 14, 2006, Google Maps for Enterprise was officially launched. As a commercial service, it features intranet and advertisement-free implementations.
  • In July 2006 Google started including Google Maps business listings in the form of Local OneBoxes in the main Google search results.[20]
  • On December 9 Google integrates the PlusBox in the main search results. [21]
  • On December 19 Google added a feature that lets you add multiple destinations to your driving directions.[22]
  • Beginning in February 2007, buildings and subway stops are displayed in Google Maps "map view" for parts of New York City, Washington, D.C., London, San Francisco, and some other cities.[23]
  • On January 29, 2007 upgrades Local Universal results and includes more data in the main Google results page
  • On February 28, 2007, Google Traffic info was officially launched to automatically include real-time traffic flow conditions to the maps of 30 major cities of the United States.
  • On March 8, 2007, the Local Business Center is upgraded.
  • On May 16, 2007 Google rolls out Universal search results including more Map information on the main Google results page.
  • On May 18, 2007 Google adds neighborhood search capability.
  • On May 29, 2007, Google driving directions support was added to the Google Maps API.
  • On May 29, 2007, Street View was added. It gives ground level 360 degree view of streets in some major cities in United States.
  • On June 19, 2007, allows reviews to be added directly to businesses on Google Maps
  • On June 28, 2007, draggable driving directions were introduced.
  • On July 31, 2007, support for the hCard microformat was announced; Google Maps search results will now output the hCard microformat; unfortunately, the implementation is broken.
  • On August 21, 2007, Google announces a simple way to embed Google Maps onto other websites
  • On September 13, 2007 54 new countries are added to Google Maps in Latin America and Asia.
  • On October 3, 2007 Google Transit was integrated into Google Maps making public transportation routing possible on Google Maps.
  • On October 27, 2007, Google Maps starts mapping the geoweb and showing the results in Google Maps.
  • On October 27, 2007 Google Maps adds a searchable interface for coupons in the business listings.
  • On November 27, 2007, "Terrain" view showing basic topographic features was added. The button for "Hybrid" view was removed, and replaced with a "Show labels" checkbox under the "Satellite" button to switch between "Hybrid" and "Satellite" views.
  • On January 22,2008 Google expands the Local Onebox from 3 business listings to 10.
  • On February 20, 2008, Google Maps allows searches to be refined by User Rating & neighborhoods.
  • On March 18, 2008, Google allows end users to edit business listings and add new places.
  • On March 19, 2008, Google adds unlimited category options in the Local Business Center.
  • On April 2, 2008, Google adds a contour lines to the Terrain view.
  • In April 2008, a button to view recent Saved Locations was added to the right of the search field (must be signed in).
  • In May 2008, a "More" button was added alongside the "Map", "Satellite", and "Terrain" buttons, permitting access to geographically-related photos on Panoramio and articles on
  • On May 15, 2008, ported to Flash and ActionScript 3 as a foundation for richer internet applications.
  • On July 15, 2008, walking directions were added.[24]
  • On August 6, 2008, Street View launched in Japan and Australia.[24]
  • On August 15, 2008, the user interface was redesigned.[24]
  • On August 29, 2008, Google signed a deal under which GeoEye will supply the search giant with imagery from a satellite,[25] and introduced the Map Maker tool for creation of map data.[24]
  • On September 9, 2008, a reverse business lookup feature was added.[24]
  • On September 23, 2008, information for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority was added.[24]
  • On October 7, 2008, GeoEye-1 took its first image, a bird's-eye view of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.[26]
  • On October 26, 2008, reverse geocoding was added to the Maps API.[24]
  • On November 11, 2008, Street View in Spain, Italy, and France was introduced.[24]
  • On November 23, 2008, AIR support for the Maps API for Flash was added.[24]
  • On November 25, 2008, a new user interface for Street View was introduced.[24]
  • On November 27, 2008, maps, local business information, and local trends for China were introduced.[24]
  • On December 9, 2008, 2x Street View coverage was introduced.[24]
  • In May, 2009, a new Google Maps logo was introduced.

Google's use of Google Maps

The main Google Maps site includes a local search feature, which can be used to locate businesses of a certain type in a geographic area.

Google Ditu

Google Ditu (谷歌地图 lit. "Google Maps") was released to the public on February 9, 2007, and replaced the old Google Bendi (谷歌本地 lit. "Google Local"). This is the Chinese localized version of Google Maps and Google Local services.

There are some differences in frontier alignments between Google Ditu and Google Maps. On Google Maps, sections of the Chinese border with India and Pakistan are shown with dotted lines, indicating areas or frontiers in dispute. However, Google Ditu shows the Chinese frontier strictly according to Chinese claims with no dotted lines indicating the border with India and Pakistan. For example, the area now administered by India called Arunachal Pradesh (referred to as "South Tibet" by China) is shown inside the Chinese frontier by Google Ditu, with Indian highways ending abruptly at the Chinese claim line. Google Ditu also shows Taiwan and the South China Sea Islands as part of China. As of May 2009, Google Ditu's street map coverage of Taiwan also omits major state organs, such as the Presidential Palace, the five Yuans, and the Supreme Court.

There are some differences between and For example, the former does not feature My Maps. On the other hand, while the former displays virtually all text in Chinese, the latter displays most text (user-selectable real text as well as those on map) in English. Worthy of note is the oddity that this behavior of displaying English text is not consistent but intermittent - sometimes it is in English, sometimes it is in Chinese. The criteria for choosing which language is displayed is not known.

Google Moon

Moon In honor of the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, Google took public domain imagery of the Moon, integrated it into the Google Maps interface, and created a tool called Google Moon.[27] By default this tool, with a reduced set of features, also displays the points of landing of all Apollo spacecraft to land on the Moon. It also included an easter egg, displaying a Swiss cheese design at the highest zoom level, which Google has since removed. A recent collaborative project between NASA Ames Research Center and Google is integrating and improving the data that is used for Google Moon. This is the Planetary Content[28] Project. Google Moon was linked from a special commemorative version of the Google logo displayed at the top of the main Google search page for July 20, 2005 (UTC)

Google Mars

Mars Google Mars provides a visible imagery view, like Google Moon, as well as infrared imagery and shaded relief (elevation) of the planet Mars. Users can toggle between the elevation, visible, and infrared data, in the same manner as switching between map, satellite, and hybrid modes of Google Maps. In collaboration with NASA scientists at the Mars Space Flight Facility located at Arizona State University, Google has provided the public with data collected from two NASA Mars missions, Mars Global Surveyor and 2001 Mars Odyssey.[29]

NASA has made available a number of Google Earth desktop client maps for Mars at

More Mars data sets with more recent data are available at Google Maps based interface at provided by the Mars Space Flight Facility Arizona State University

Now, with Google Earth 5 it is possible to access new improved Google Mars data at a much higher resolution, as well as being able to view the terrain in 3D, and viewing panoramas from various Mars landers in a similar way to Google Street View.

Google Sky

On August 27, 2007, Google introduced Google Sky, an online space mapping tool that allows users to pan through a map of the visible universe, using photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Google Ride Finder

Google launched an experimental Google Maps-based tool called Ride Finder, tapping into in-car GPS units for a selection of participating taxi and limousine services. The tool displays the current location of all supported vehicles of the participating services in major U.S. cities, including Chicago and San Francisco on a Google Maps street map. As of 2009 the tool seems to be discontinued.

Google Transit

In December 2005, Google launched Google Transit on Google Labs a 20% project of Chris Harrelson and Avichal Garg[30]. Google Transit launched initially with support for Portland, Oregon, and now includes hundreds of cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The service calculates route, transit time and cost, and can compare the trip to one using a car. In October 2007,[31] Google Transit graduated from Google Labs and became fully integrated into Google Maps.

Google My Maps

In April 2007, My Maps was a new feature added to Google's local search maps. My Maps lets users and businesses create their own map by positioning markers, polylines and polygons onto a map. The interface is a straightforward overlay on the map. A set of eighty-four pre-designed markers is available, ranging from bars and restaurants to webcam and earthquake symbols. Polyline and Polygon color, width and opacity are selectable. Maps modified using My Maps can be saved for later viewing and made public (or marked as private), but cannot be printed. Note: this can easily be overcome by using the 'Print Screen' function key and simple image editing software such as Paint.

Each element added to a My Map has an editable tag. This tag can contain text, rich text or HTML. Embeddable video and other content can be included within the HTML tag.

Upon the launch of My Maps there was no facility to embed the created maps into a webpage or blog. A few independent websites have now produced tools to let users embed maps and add further functionality to their maps.[32] This has been resolved with version 2.78.

Google Street View

On May 25, 2007, Google released Street View, a new feature of Google Maps which provides 360° panoramic street-level views of various U.S. cities. On this date, the feature only included five cities, but has since expanded to thousands of locations in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

In August 2008, Australia was added to the Street View feature with nearly all Australian highways, roads and streets having the feature. In addition in that month Japan was added and the Tour de France route was added on July 2 of that year. In December 2008, New Zealand was added to street view. Australia and New Zealand are the only countries to date with almost all roads and highways featured.

July 2009, Google begins mapping college campuses and surrounding paths and trails. [33]

Google Street View gained a significant amount of controversy in the days following its release. Initially privacy concerns erupted due to the uncensored nature of its panoramic photographs.[34][35] Since then, Google has begun blurring faces using an automated face detection technology.[36]

Google Latitude

Google Latitude is a feature from Google that lets users share their physical locations with other people. This service is based on Google Maps, specifically on mobile devices. There's an iGoogle widget for Desktops and Laptops as well.[37] Some concerns have been expressed about the privacy issues raised by the use of the service.[38]


Google maps links to the geo-tags placed in Wikipedia articles. It also links to photos with GPS tags from Panoramio.


The Google Maps terms and conditions[39] state that usage of material from Google Maps is regulated by Google Terms of Service[40] and some additional restrictions. The terms and conditions also state:

For individual users, Google Maps [...] is made available for your personal, non-commercial use only. For business users, Google Maps is made available for your internal use only and may not be commercially redistributed [...][39]


Street map overlays, in some areas, may not match up precisely with the corresponding satellite images. The street data may be entirely erroneous, or simply out of date:

The biggest challenge is the currency of data, the authenticity of data," said Google Earth representative Brian McLendon. In other words: The main complaints the Google guys get are "that's not my house" and "that's not my car." Google Maps satellite images are not in real time; they are several years old.[41]

As a result, Google has recently added a feature to edit the locations of houses and businesses.[42]

Restrictions have been placed on Google Maps through the apparent censoring of locations deemed potential security threats. In some cases the area of redaction is for specific buildings, but in other cases, such as Washington, D.C.,[43] the restriction is to use outdated imagery. These locations are fully listed on Satellite map images with missing or unclear data.

Google Maps has difficulty processing road data when dealing with cross-boundary situations. For example, users are unable to obtain a route from Hong Kong to Shenzhen via Shatoujiao, because Google Maps does not display and plan the road map of two overlapping places.[44]

Sometimes objects on Google Maps are hidden by clouds. For example, the mast of Arbrå Transmitter near Bollnäs in Sweden is hidden under a cloud.

The map uses the Mercator projection, which is increasingly distorted towards the polar regions.

Sometimes the names of geographical locations are inaccurate and Google is unable (or unwilling) to correct the data. An example of this type of error may be found in Google Maps Laona, Wisconsin. In this instance Google Maps identifies one of the town's two major lakes as "Dawson Lake"[45] ; the USGS, State of Wisconsin, and local government maps all identify that map feature as "Scattered Rice Lake".[46]

Google collates business listings from multiple on-line and off-line sources. To reduce duplication in the index, Google's algorithm combines listings automatically based on address, phone number, or geocode.[47] This merges single listings into one record combining aspects of both listings.[48]

See also

Comparable services

  • Géoportail – a French rival offering detailed aerial photographs of French territories
  • Bing Maps – Microsoft's mapping service with road maps and aerial/satellite imagery
    • TerraServer-USA – public domain (older than five years) satellite imagery via Microsoft servers
    • Microsoft Virtual Earth – the original Microsoft map service
  • Map24
  • MapQuest
  • OpenStreetMap – a royalty free, editable map of the world
  • Ovi Maps – a service offered by Nokia that allows synchronizing with user's mobile phones
  • Pictometry – a birdseye imagery provider which can be integrated into all mapping programs
  • Seat Pagine Gialle – an Italian competitor offering detailed satellite pictures of Italian territories and navigable street level panoramas of Rome (similar to Street View)
  • Terralink International
  • Yahoo! Maps


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  27. Google Moon
  29. About Google Mars
  32. [1]
  33. "Google Tricycle Mapper". Examiner. 2007-06-01. 
  34. "The Google 'ick' factor". 2007-06-15. 
  35. "Want Off Street View?". Wired. 2007-06-15. 
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  39. 39.0 39.1 Google Maps Terms.
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  41. - K2 and Karakorum by climbers, news
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  45. Google Maps Laona, Wisconsin
  46. State of Wisconsin DNR Scattered Rice Lake
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External links