[FoRK] Google

mattj at newsblip.com mattj at newsblip.com
Thu Feb 10 16:49:41 PST 2005

Quoting Adam L Beberg <beberg at mithral.com>:

> So far, [scrolling] is the one and only "new" thing about the site, one that
> will take the other sites hours to days, but definitely not weeks to
> implement. MapQuest, Yahoo, etc, all do all the rest already.

Google Maps is much easier to use than MapQuest or Yahoo.  I can't say that
there is one feature that is both incredibly useful *and* never been done
anywhere before.  However, it is hands down the best map service I've seen,
particularly for local search.

+ It's maps are far easier to read, at any zoom factor.

+ The maps are bigger.  In fact, for local search Yahoo won't let you get the
  "bigger" map view at all, and even the "bigger" view is small next to
  Google's maps.  After you use Google Maps for a day, Yahoo and MapQuest
  seem like working on a cell phone screen.

+ Entering a search is much faster.  Google Maps handles queries like Google
  does.  Want donuts in Seattle?  Here's what it takes:

  Google Maps:  0 clicks & 15 keystrokes  (1 page load)
  (Just type 'donuts Seattle')

  Yahoo Maps:  1 click  & 21 keystrokes   (2 page loads)
  (click Business, then tab between 4 text boxes)

And you *still* aren't on the map yet.  For that you really want Yahoo Local,
and then "View Results on Map"...

  Yahoo Local:  1 click & 15 keystrokes   (2 page loads)

+ Back and Forward browser buttons really work, unlike with Yahoo.

+ Pulls in search engine results.

  I did a search for my friend:  "John Doe" Seattle
  Now, Yahoo and Google both showed me a pushpin for his home, since
  he ran a business out of there. But only Google showed me a pushpin
  for each of the three comedy clubs at which he's performed.
  Think about it.  This means you can find related places without
  knowing what categories to search in.

+ Zoom-in driving details are better.

   1. They render nicer. Yahoo's zoom-ins often render the purple path
      to the side of a road, instead of on top of the road.  Since the
      tricky parts in directions are often things like onramps that parallel
      highway for a ways, this can be misleading.

   2. They are quick popups, versus Yahoo's list of all details.
      I can see the value of printing out Yahoo's list for a drive,
      but that uses up a lot of space for info I don't need, and shrinks
      my overview map.

Those are all reasons for the consumer to use it.  There are also reasons why
this is something "new" on the vendor side.  Mostly, this is a mapping service
that can probably scale very well.  For example, Yahoo renders the purple route
(for directions) on the server as part of the map image.  But Google treats that
separately, as a transparent PNG image created from a compressed series of
coordinates.  This lightens the server load, and helps make route dislpay much
faster than it is in Yahoo.

-Matt Jensen

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