Google Maps goes beyond directions


Google today announced a new version of Google Maps that will launch later this summer. All of the core Google Maps features for getting directions aren’t going away, of course, but on top of that, the team has now built a new set of features that are all about exploration.

“About a year ago, when we started to talk to users, one of the things we asked them was: how can we really help you? What else do you want Google Maps to do? And one of the overwhelming answers that we got back was just really a lot of requests around helping users explore an area, help me decide where to go,” Sophia Lin, Google’s senior product manager on the Google Maps team, told me. “So we really started digging in to thinking about what we can really do here from Google that would really help people.”

Right now, Google Maps is obviously best known for helping people get where they want to go, but for a while now, Google has featured all kinds of additional content in the service. Many users never touch those features, though, it seems. While I couldn’t get Lin to tell me about the percentage of users who currently use the existing Google Maps exploration tools, this new initiative is also part of an attempt to get users to move beyond directions when they think about Maps.

And because this is Google, that new experience is all about personalization with the help of AI.

So in the new Maps, you’ll find the new “For you” tab that’s basically a newsfeed-like experience with recommendations for you. You’ll be able to “follow” certain neighborhoods and cities (or maybe a place you plan to visit soon), similar to a social networking experience. When Google Maps finds interesting updates in that area — maybe a restaurant that’s trending or a new coffee shop that opens — it’ll tell you about that in your feed.

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