The Future of Maps

Google Maps

Google has the best implementation of digital maps and directions so far. They've nailed it. To grab a link so someone else can see what you're looking at, it's not three steps, it's one step. When you get directions and want detail for the stages, you don't have to click back and forth from a big view to small views, you can click on each stage and an inset balloon pops right over the map (until they fix it, click on the words, not the stage number). In fact, you never really leave the main page, all the processing to search and update your views is done with fast xmlhttp, not page loads.

Here's the best part. Run a search like Italian Restaurants in Toronto, Ontario and use the slider on the left to zoom in. You can click and drag it, it behaves like it should. Now click and drag right on the map. Cool eh? Now zoom down to the street level, pick a street or highway and follow it by dragging. Heck, zoom out a bit and drag your way all the way across Lake Ontario. Hey I'm in the U.S. and didn't need to go through Customs. You can take whole virtual trips like this. Enjoy.

Now imagine if this was connected to a service like MSN Messenger, and you could form a tribe with your friends and leave post-it notes to each other on street corners. Imagine if I could share my location information with you through my GPS phone. Imagine if the transit company used GPS on its vehicles to post real-time maps. When's the next bus getting to the corner? There it is, better leave now. Imagine if instead of little pop-over balloons for those Italian restaurants, people could submit photos of the buildings themselves. Think virtual billboards. Think Sim City. Only this time, it's not simulated anymore. Damn, maybe this Internet thing really is just getting started.

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