Google Earth is quite simply one of my favorite products of the past several years. It allows you to explore our world even if you don’t have the time or the means of doing so. That said, it still is a stand-alone app. Frequent readers may know I prefer the browser-based variety. While Google Earth is likely still a bit too complex for the browser, Google has another product that is getting closer to it in features: Google Maps.
Google Maps continues to add new layers. When you do a location search, Maps now has options on the left hand side to see photos, videos or user-created maps for that area. Clicking on any of these will place markers on the map on the location where the media was taken. Clicking on the small thumbnails opens a typical Maps information bubble with a larger version.
Just as with Google Earth, the photos are pulled from Google’s location based image service service, Panoramio, but interestingly not yet from Google’s more public photo service, Picasa (why Google hasn’t merged these two yet is beyond me). The videos, as you might expect, are pulled from YouTube.
Looking at images and videos in Google Earth was always one of my favorite things about the service. It provided a new level of context for places I had never been to. Now that these have been added to Google Maps, it will be even more convenient to “explore” in my downtime.
If I had a complaint it would simply be that Google doesn’t include Flickr photos (Google rival and sometimes partner Yahoo owns Flickr) or videos from other services in these results. The reason why is obvious: Google wants to promote the use of its own properties. Still, Flickr in my mind is far ahead of the other photo services in terms of content. That is what makes its somewhat similar, but perhaps not as useful “Places” feature interesting.
The video below has more information.