> Over the course of a year, Google quietly turned its map inside-out – transforming it from a road map into a place map.
I've long been amazed how we somehow transitioned during the early 20th century from a mental model of roads and paths running through locations to places (house lots, etc) being the spaces between the roads. It's a natural thing to happen, but one of those invisible flips that happens on a timescale longer than a human lifetime.
But this anticipates the opposite: if you can stop worrying about how to get somewhere (because you don't have to drive or plan much -- self-driving or Lyft-style services can take care of the route planning) you can focus on the destination.
We see this phenomenon in subway maps which are famously schematic and not geographical.
(BTW the transformation is visible in literature, which is how I noticed it. The sense of geography in, say, Jane Austin is completely alien to today).
Now I'm curious, don't remember such a difference, but then it's been a long time since I read Jane Austen. Don't suppose you could put your finger on exactly how she handles geography that a writer like Stephen King or China Mieville doesn't?
I guess this must be a 20th-century phenomenon limited to industrialized nations. My grandparents' generation, who lived in the Carpathian Mountains and relied on cows and wooden-made carts for their method of transportation (when not going on foot), definitely only used time-to-destination. I've never ever heard my grandma' say anything about kilometers, meters, or the like.
In developing countries this shift has already happened ('distance' to 'time') due to things like traffic jams, inconsistent infrastructure (some routes are longer but faster due to lesser traffic signals or better maintained etc.)
Maybe it would not be wrong to assert that this shift is more in force in developing countries than other places. This could be due to unpredictableness. The routes that are optimal now - takes less time - can change in matter of minutes/hours (due to procession/rallies, rains, accidents, school & office timings, power failure - leading to stoppage of traffic signals, etc.)
Google maps always give multiple routes to a destination and they differ in terms of time to destination (distance to destination is seen as secondary information on map interface).
Then I guess Germany has not yet developed. But when talking about places people always specify the distance. Berlin is 584 km away from Munich, not 5 hours and 15 minutes. Talking about time to destination is something I have exclusively seen Americans do. Maybe that's because in the US distance and time are basically the same, since everybody takes the car and drives at the speed limit. But in Germany there is no general speed limit, and you might also decide to take the train or airplane to Berlin (and may people do) at which point talking about time would be confusing at best.
Even according to Google Trends "Greenwich village" is 6.5 times more popular than "Vinegar Hill", let alone some rooftop bar.
Anyway, Greenwich Village still shows up as a neighborhood
label at a range of zoom levels, just not the particular scale for this image.
Google has become good at telling you what you used to know versus what you want to discover
At the moment, Apple Maps seems to have a more thought-through design for public transit than Google Maps. Which is to say, transit view in Apple Maps is either visually clean and uncluttered, or completely nonexistent, depending on whether they got around to adding your city. Clearly a lot of by-hand design work goes into it, which isn't a very scalable approach.
On the other hand, transit data in Google sometimes appears to have been munged with no human intervention and never received even a cursory check by a graphic designer. For example, turning on Transit view in downtown Toronto will show a mess of ungodly rainbow spaghetti which is meant to represent the streetcar system. There are lines on non-revenue tracks where no streetcars actually run, lines on streets that don't have streetcar tracks, random artefact lines that appear and then vanish two blocks later, and lines drawn diagonally through the middle of High Park where there is no street at all. Somehow, the data behind this spaghetti is diligently updated year-after-year (e.g. the new Cherry streetcar was added in 2016) without anyone involved in the process noticing that the results are hideously garbled.
It also took them about a decade to realize that the SkyTrain in Vancouver is a rapid transit system.
The more general problem Transit seems to be trying to solve (that no one else is) is having a map that can be kept up-to-date with transit alerts and diversions with minimal hassle. For example, it looks like their launch-time picture of Toronto's streetcars (in the first link) was generated when there was trackwork at the College and Bathurst intersection and the corresponding streetcar lines were being diverted around it.
The second link explains rather well the reasons behind some of the problems evident in Google's Toronto map. For example, the unsnapping issue for adjacent lines occurs a lot because streetcar lines are heavily interlined.
I tend to use Apple Maps for everything now since it is more integrated into the system and, like you said, the information is more cleanly presented.
Google then sends you a summary of how your contributions were doing. Recently they send me some E-Mail to the effect of "Awesome! Your image on <business name> has been viewed 100 thousand times!" or something like that.
It entirely turned me off the whole thing and I haven't contributed since. I thought "why am I contributing to this ad-powered product that they're monetizing for millions, for free?".
It's kind of hilarious really. If you look at their landing page the benefits you can gain include things like "...and you can also moderate our forums, for us, for free!": https://www.google.com/local/guides/benefits/
> I thought "why am I contributing to this ad-powered product that they're monetizing for millions, for free?"
You already knew Google Maps was monetized by ads, before making an edit.
I don't think it's fair to see this as free labor for Google. Your edits to Google Maps could be related to your own business. Or you might be helping your favorite local business to get more visibility and customers.
Perhaps it can also be seen as a contribution to your neighborhood.
(disclaimer: work on maps, nothing to do with guides tho)
They never mentioned it in any of their emails, or the "newsletters" you get "access" to once you hit level 1.
Now, the grand reward (once you hit more than 500 points) is being a "trusted Google tester".
This is a joke and free work for Google. I will be contributing to OSM from now on.
Since then I've gotten a little obsessive about specific goals, so I'm less compelled by it, but I don't think that's an inevitable aspect of aging, it's just how my personality turned out.
Can you show me a single ad on Google Maps?
I don't understand. Why does working for free for multi billion dollar corporation feel good?
The bulk of my updates are local trails through the bush from when I go exploring, based on my GPS tracks. But I've also been adding pedestrian paths between streets, new roads from residential developments, and so on.
I'm guessing it just takes a few of this kind of person to keep OSM up-to-date. It's a shame it's not more widely used directly by the general public with some way of flagging errors.
But the wording of your post suggests your info comes from the source, so maybe I'm missing something.
I can't remember if the highlighted water region was in a fixed location or if it followed the sunlight. (You definitely see building shadows change direction according to the time of the day in 2D WebGL mode, e.g. near the Eiffel tower. This is what I mean when I say that it all adds up, especially with WebGL 1.0 and an underpowered GPU like the original Chromebook Pixel's Intel HD4000.)
A while ago I took off the 'designer' font choices from a website (spider grey text on grey background, kerning mangled) with some local CSS. Everyone prefered the simple legibility to what was on my screen so we set the website to be like mine, legible.
I wonder if some people on the Google Maps team had a similar internal hack to optimise their workflow - turning off graphics cruft - get back to legibility - and if someone got this fed back into the actual design, 'as proven by the team'. I prefer this evolution of design, from people who have to get the data right in the first case and how they 'optimise' the presentation of that information for themselves.
How can Apple catch up? Is there an obvious acquisition?
Apple Maps is limited to Macs and iDevices, while Google Maps is accessible essentially everywhere (web and Search page and Android/iOS). Because of this, it's easier for the masses to update information on Google Maps than Apple Maps.
For its massive cash hoards, I gotta say that Apple is neither strategic nor quick to the table with acquisitions.
- changing the font size is a mess .. I work on UI on a large Android app and it is not trivial to make a design adapt to very large font sizes without sacrificing performances. Most apps don't bother though .. so you end up with mangled text fields.
-Nougat still support font size changes but has also added what I think is a better implementation : variable density.
The OS can 'lie' to the framework and the running apps and declare a pixel density different than its natural one.
That way the whole interface gets scaled (since interfaces are designed in density independent pixels).
Works like a charm and won't have any UI glitch because of it.
The big problem which seems to make it not worth expanding your dataset for graphical maps, is that it is quite difficult to display a lot of data, and still be easier to read than an aerial photograph.
I suppose they can't easily, since the OSM license change.
My understanding is they'd have to open a lot of the geo data that they integrate together into their maps (POI, public transit, etc.), which might not be feasible as I suspect most of what they integrate is commercial and not owned by them.
(someone could check, but while Apple Maps had been using OSM e.g. for Pakistan, did they ever switch to post-relicensing data anywhere, or do they just keep using 2012 data?)
OSM is more of an all or nothing, everything has to be shared back, so it's hard to be pragmatic and mix different sources some open and some proprietary.
(and not every company wants to run a full fledged geo operation, and those can do it at scale will often end up keeping their data proprietary)
You can however, put separate and distinct data layers on top of your map, such as icons showing specialists points of interest, routes, track logs, shaded areas, contours and the like, then Share-Alike does not apply to these elements as long as they do not interact with the map underneath.
(Reading the article, Apple sources data from TomTom, which probably explains why they have good up-to-date satnav information.)
Head southeast on hanuman galli Rd toward Kalyan-Badlapur Rd
Pass by Gopal Cooperative Housing Society (on the left)
Turn left at Shubharamb Wedding Cards & Corporate Designs onto Kalyan-Badlapur Rd
Pass by Hamilton Cycles Industry (on the right in 1.1 km)
Germany also has good data, but I drive there much less so I can't vouch for it.
Belgium on the other hand... I haven't yet found missing roads, which is surprising given what the map looks like.
There's an issue where intersections aren't really mapped in OSM (at least in terms of priority, turn restrictions are increasingly captured), the pieces are all well modeled but there isn't much information about how they fit together.
People give Google Maps a lot of credit but I find it really hard to use as a means for keeping track of places I like, or for discovering new places. For example, if I want to label a custom pin, I have to grant Google some sweeping permissions to use my web and mobile activity data. I couldn't grant that permission if I wanted to, as it's turned off somewhere in the bowels of my G Suite domain management settings.
I'm currently using some offline cached maps tiles downloaded with MOBAC, and waiting for Google to change their colours back again. Now I realise that it's a place map, and places generate advertising revenue, I think that Google is unlikely to fix that.
Another problem that happened recently in Taiwan was when Google removed pinyin (latin letters) from the street names, leaving only Chinese characters. Foreigners living here couldn't find their way around. I threw together a quick alternative to GMaps, and told people about it - until Google put the pinyin back about a week later.
Or maybe Google wants to make human navigation more difficult so you'll help collect some more trip data.
Back in the day before labels I would star places I needed to "bookmark" regardless of importance in time and how ephemeral that mark was. Then when labels appeared I thought that was ideal to mark places which are always important (because I can personalize the label) as opposed to a generic star which most likely meant a temporary bookmark.
It seems that with this new Google maps, the stars always get display priority (it's shown even at smallest zoom level) whereas labels only appear at a algorithmically defined location (which seems arbitrary).
All this time wasted in personalizing my map.
Nope. Try dragging Pegman over anywhere in the rural Midwest and see what you get. 99% of US _paved_ roads, perhaps.
"Three different looks? What’s going on with Google Maps’ design?"
A/B testing perhaps?