I've been playing around with the brand new Google Maps for a little while this evening, trying to figure out why it seems newsworthy, even though it's just another mapping solution, when everyone is already quite familiar with things like Mapquest or Yahoo Maps. The simple fact is, those two incumbents have done very little over the past few years to do anything more with their mapping efforts -- whereas Google Maps feels much more intuitive and useful. Yahoo recently added traffic reports, which is a nice touch, but isn't all that comprehensive. What's interesting about Google Maps is the fact that they've clearly rethought how an online mapping offering should work. They obviously took many of the ideas (and technology?) from their recent acquisition of Keyhole as the two offerings work in very similar ways, and you can tell it's just a matter of time until the service offers satellite imagery as well. Still, it shows that, yet again (as with search, web advertising and web mail), Google is taking something that many people assumed was a dead market and started again, building out a version that is much more compelling than what already existed. That, to some extent, is really the power of Google. Recognizing what's out there that isn't really good enough already (even if people don't realize it) and making it better.
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