Google is promising a million maps for a million people with its redesign. But can it avoid confining us to customized urban bubbles?
Google has crammed a dozen notable updates into the revamped Google Maps that was unveiled this week at the tech giant's annual I/O developer conference. The new platform, currently invite-only, seamlessly folds the search function directly onto the map, eliminating the two-column display (search and directions on the left, maps on the right) that will soon come to seem quaint. The new map integrates air-travel routes, and Google Earth's 3D cityscapes, and better passage through Street View. And our favorite addition – a vaguely familiar one – allows users for the first time to simultaneously compare routes between any two locations by car, public transit, walking or cycling.
In fact, ask the new Google Maps to spit out directions to a coffee shop or a friend's house just a few blocks away, and it will assume, by default, that you want to walk there.
But the real game-changer in the new application has less to do with the aesthetic experience of using it, or the sheer power of its continuous toggling between 2D maps, real-life photos and satellite imagery. Google promises with this new product to build a customizable map for everyone, something that will be infinitely, constantly evolving according to your tastes and your clicks and your search history.