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Google Maps, Now Customized
May 29, 2013 5:12 PM   Subscribe

For years, Google Maps has been the map of our world in a historically unprecedented way. The new Google Maps (announcement) will eschew the uniformity of the old Maps and instead customize the map experience based on a user's behavior. Some are concerned how this artificial narrowing will affect the way we experience places and relate to our urban spaces. Others believe the customization makes the new maps more honest. Most, however, will probably just want to comment on the huge overhaul to the interface.
posted by Defenestrator (104 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I already turned it off because it was so #&*$(@ slow.
posted by dmd at 5:15 PM on May 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Request an invite? No thanks, Google. Last time all I got was G+.
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on May 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure this is something I have the patience for.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:20 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the new maps UI, go to Earth mode and zoom out all the way. Enjoy the accurate terminator line. Marvel at the clouds which are actually the real current clouds. And await an eclipse which will be rendered extremely correctly, wherever it occurs on Earth.

I mean, some of the technical improvements and advances in using WebGL are pretty amazing here.
posted by GuyZero at 5:25 PM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


The mass transit routing in Google Maps is unequivocally a good thing so in general I'm pretty positive.

However it seems like this change, as with so many Google products, means that results will actually be better when logged out.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:26 PM on May 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


So far I'm almost tolerant of it. Now where has the little icon you use to make/shorten a link to the current map gone? It's hiding there somewhere, right?
posted by Jimbob at 5:29 PM on May 29, 2013


...customize the map experience based on a user's behavior.

Oh good, Google Maps is about to get as useless as Amazon.

Also, don't bubble us.
posted by DU at 5:30 PM on May 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't know about all that, but I do think its cool that you can now use Street View to explore all the paths (not just roads) of Central Park.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:36 PM on May 29, 2013


Is Google obligated to meet a certain "affected experience" criteria?
posted by Brocktoon at 5:39 PM on May 29, 2013


Is Google obligated to meet a certain "affected experience" criteria?

What does this mean?
posted by GuyZero at 5:42 PM on May 29, 2013


I am pretty sure I would like to see the same map as everyone else, thanks.

I worked in a hostel once where the marketing idjit called me up because she was setting up our listings in the new guidebook and she needed me to tell her how far we were from the city's bus station and train station (we had just opened the new location). She asked me, "About 200 metres for each, right?"

I said, "No, more than that... around 1 km for the train station and a little more for the bus station." (In the pre-Google Earth days I had to estimate... looking on Google Earth now, I see it was about 900 m to the train station and about 1300 m to the bus terminal.)

She said, "Oh, people will never want to walk that far. I will put 200 m. It sounds closer."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:42 PM on May 29, 2013 [20 favorites]


I already turned it off because it was so #&*$(@ slow.

Give it a second! It's going to space!
posted by Brocktoon at 5:44 PM on May 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is Google obligated to meet a certain "affected experience" criteria?

What does this mean?


It means they're a private company, and not obligated.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:45 PM on May 29, 2013


Yeah, I think the personalized maps thing is a shitty idea. I frequently use Maps as an exploratory thing, because it's so easy to get used to a place and settle into patterns of what you see and frequent, so finding out that there's e.g. a park* a few blocks away from a place I'm always at in a direction I never thought to go before is a nice way of breaking the bonds of habit. Maps is going to be way less useful to me now that they're actively transitioning away from the goal of being a comprehensive index. Oh well! I guess using it in private mode on my browser is a workaround for now.

* I guess this isn't the best example because a park will always show up as a green-colored region, but you get the point.
posted by invitapriore at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I understand there's some smart folks out at the Google factory, below is the response to my complaint when the new maps invitation arrived just as I was in a rush to work out a route. Now my questions were mostly venting and I found the traffic link and I think the drab option was an add-on via labs but this response, well I sure hope it's from an AI of some sort. A 'smart' programmatic response is a bit understandable, even the worst outsourced to a North Korean slave response should have been better tho'.

==================

Thank you for reporting this problem. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the problem you reported isn't easy for us to fix at this time:

Where has the traffic toggle gone? Also the drag to zoom option?

We did want to let you know that we've escalated your report to the appropriate engineering team. Even though we don't have an immediate fix to your problem, please be assured that we're working hard for a resolution.
Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps!
posted by sammyo at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2013


I uniformly loathe the map views of both Apple and Google. Try wayfinding in bright sunlight when the background is FFFFF0 and the streets are E0E0E0. It makes me so perplexed and angry, do these people never use their own maps?
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:47 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Already aggravated I had to request an invite. That's it. I think all I need is some souped-up MS Streets and I'll be set.
posted by PuppyCat at 5:52 PM on May 29, 2013


I'm so confused by the thought of logging in into google for anything other than gmail. Why? I don't want your weird alien robot attempts at learning my behavior, google. I don't like you in that way.
posted by elizardbits at 5:52 PM on May 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


The last line should read-
Most, however, will just want to comment on how much they think google sucks.
posted by numberwang at 5:56 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, this is fucking stupid. When I search for restaurants, I want to see all the restaurants. Not just the ones that Google thinks I might like. I am an adult and capable of making decisions. It's the same with Google search, which ALWAYS delivers me results skewed to a Canadian location when I really do not want them skewed that way. Way to reduce utility, Google.
posted by unSane at 5:57 PM on May 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm so confused by the thought of logging in into google for anything other than gmail.

There's no such thing as logging in only for gmail. If you're logged into Gmail you're logged into everything else.
posted by unSane at 5:58 PM on May 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you want to explore Google-Anything (or, indeed Anything-Anything) as an unknown person, just open a private browsing window and go right ahead. That way you don't have to log out and log back in to Google (or whatever) elsewhere.
posted by yoink at 6:00 PM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I used it for two days and went back to classic. Some thoughts:

1. It's a lot slower, even in Chrome on a practically brand new computer. I can't imagine how it runs on something a few years old. It's especially bad when you click a Maps link from somewhere and the page takes ten seconds to fire up.

2. Particularly, switching between the Maps view and Satellite (now called "Earth") is really fuckin poky. And you're out of luck if you want to see the imagery by itself without all of the label shit.

3. There's no way to tell which areas or streets have Streetview and which don't. This isn't a big deal in the US, where practically every road is covered, but if you're a weirdo like me and enjoy browsing Streetview in places you've never been, it sucks. In the new Maps there's no way you'd ever know Botswana had Streetview coverage unless you were just clicking on random roads there and got lucky.

4. The little blue Picasa spots were a great way to get a sense of what a place looked like from the ground if Streetview wasn't available. They were also useful to tell where unlabeled interesting stuff might be -- there would always be a cluster of Picasa points around it. Now there's a big pictures pane at the bottom that just shows you nice postcard shots of whatever's in the general area.

I don't really care about the personalization thing. It's fine, I guess? I actually kind of like the little four-five word blurbs that appear right on the map.
posted by theodolite at 6:05 PM on May 29, 2013


There's no such thing as logging in only for gmail. If you're logged into Gmail you're logged into everything else.

Yep. And boy am I ever glad I got unaddicted from them several years ago and avoided a lot of this nonsense.
posted by DU at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I search for restaurants, I want to see all the restaurants.

I'm guessing you're in a pretty small town. A listing of "all the restaurants" in most medium size cities and upwards would be about the most useless thing I could imagine. I might as well just start driving around until I see something that looks worth trying.

If it actually does a decent job of identifying "stuff I might like" a customized map is actually going to be infinitely more useful to me than a mere: "here's everything that could be described as a restaurant" map.
posted by yoink at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I search for restaurants, I want to see all the restaurants.

I don't really disagree with your point, but the idea that Google has ever just listed unprocessed information as a search result is just untrue. Google became Google by algorithmically sorting results based on a variety of factors. The pre-Google search engines that just ranked pages by keyword let the users make decisions for themselves, and they were fucking useless. (On preview, what yoink said)

Now they're adding user history into the algorithm. It might not work out, but it's not exactly a change of philosophy.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 6:11 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's no way to tell which areas or streets have Streetview and which don't.

This. Randomly dropping peg man on the blue areas (indicating Streetview availability) was such a fun way to explore for a few minutes (or hours). There's also (as far as I can tell) no way to split the screen between street view and map view, which I always found incredibly useful. It was one of the first things I missed.
posted by Defenestrator at 6:26 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, theodolite - the hiding of Streetview / Picasa guides is really bad (as is the inability to get a shortlink to a map...still searching...). As seems to be the trend at the moment, they've moved towards lowest-common-denominator design. Rather than thinking "how can we make the most useful, full-featured tool possible", they're thinking "how can we make something to help complete dumb-asses can find the nearest Chinese restaurant...and then find it again later if they forget they like Chinese food".
posted by Jimbob at 6:28 PM on May 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


She said, "Oh, people will never want to walk that far. I will put 200 m. It sounds closer."

Well, It certainly sounds closer to me.
posted by Hicksu at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I remember when they simplified image search. For a few months they got rid of "larger than" and "exactly" as search-by-size options, among other things. Then, those functions came back as options in a drop down menu.

It's like the interface designers need to pretend their new interface can somehow read minds. But, once the spotlight isn't on them anymore, they quietly add the useful functionality back in.
posted by UrbanEye at 6:42 PM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's no such thing as logging in only for gmail. If you're logged into Gmail you're logged into everything else.

So when I log in to gmail and read my emails and then log out and start a new browser session, how am I logged in to everything else? Am I missing something here? I don't even do anything else in other tabs while logged in, and I have a wholly separate browser that I use only for gmail; everything else is done in firefox or chrome.
posted by elizardbits at 6:47 PM on May 29, 2013


I remember when they simplified image search. For a few months they got rid of "larger than" and "exactly" as search-by-size options, among other things. Then, those functions came back as options in a drop down menu.

I also recall the redesigned image search featured an each-picture-enlarges-as-you-mouse-over-it display that rendered the results really, really, really annoying to use. That mercifully disappeared eventually, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:49 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't even do anything else while logged in and I have a wholly separate browser that I use only for gmail; everything else is done in firefox or chrome.

Well then, you're doing things right. Most people don't.
posted by Jimbob at 6:49 PM on May 29, 2013


Wow, I think everyone's going to hate any new Google product from now on. Not that they don't sometimes deserve it, but this new maps product is pretty impressive. I think the personalization is a great idea, and not provocative or controversial as the linked articles here try to argue. Also the new maps are beautiful. And I love that they're rendering from vector data; that's the way all map systems have been moving, I just posted a related project to MeFi Projects.
posted by Nelson at 7:00 PM on May 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


yoink: "If you want to explore Google-Anything (or, indeed Anything-Anything) as an unknown person, just open a private browsing window and go right ahead. That way you don't have to log out and log back in to Google (or whatever) elsewhere."

I seem to recall reading that YouTube recommends videos based on IP address. I usually have YouTube open in private browsing and certainly get predictable recommended videos.
posted by hoyland at 7:11 PM on May 29, 2013


Wow, I think everyone's going to hate any new Google product from now on.

Some people like when stuff changes, other people are disturbed by it.
posted by empath at 7:18 PM on May 29, 2013


The primary way every internet company does geolocation is by IP address. Thus people in germany get videos in german recommended to them. Which probably makes some sense.
posted by GuyZero at 7:19 PM on May 29, 2013


Beautiful but slow, in an almost Windows Vista-esque way.

The customization has potential... how cool would it be if you could search for restaurants liked/recommended by mefites?

As it stands though, my google "circle" consists of one other person who has actually bought into the google ecosystem.
posted by cacofonie at 7:24 PM on May 29, 2013


Haven't tried it yet but whenever I see terms like "personalized view" and "user behavior" I assume that they're looking for new ways to make you more attractive to their advertisers. Not that there's necessarily anything too wrong with that if they can still provide a useful and free product.
posted by islander at 7:27 PM on May 29, 2013


Some people like when stuff changes, other people are disturbed by it.

Some of us have noticed that all of Google's changes are in one particular direction.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:28 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The invite button isn't working for me. I'm interested in it for some of the basic things that seem to be hinted at (like being able to toggle between various things you've found in a particular search session), but I'm with islander, though, that personalization efforts are completely transparent attempts to market you to advertisers. I'll definitely be running this in a private logged-out browser. I actually don't suspect that to be possible for much longer with most of Google's products. They have no particular reason to offer services to logged-out users, and I'm sure they're quickly realizing that.
posted by odinsdream at 7:32 PM on May 29, 2013


I'm running it on a nice computer and it runs VERY quickly. If it detects that it may be slow, it will switch you to non-WebGL rendering, even in the new maps tool.

Now where has the little icon you use to make/shorten a link to the current map gone? It's hiding there somewhere, right?

Psst, it's just the URL now.

They've made it VERY clear that they're still working on it and some features you'd expect aren't in this version yet. I expect that to mean Pegman, split view, the "My Location" button (which I noted was most glaring), and a few others.

"Personalized" maps means that it draws a light overview path to my house whenever I search and I'm near my house. It's not suppressing results that I know of. (Perhaps it would if I rated any results 1 star or something.)

Inside street views of restaurants around me are AMAZING.

Photo tours? EVEN MORE AMAZING. It's like Photosynth on steroids. The terminator, live clouds, 3D building rendering and such are just fantastic.

I like the overall feel of it, I like the three word blurbs about places, I like that Home and Work are highlighted intelligently and easy to get to when I need directions, and overall I'm really impressed.

The traffic toggle is still there: it shows as a Getting Around pane that drops down when I first load the map.

Likewise, new mass transit timetables mixed with where you're going are FANTASTIC, bike paths are great, flight maps are fun but not too useful, and I wish that when I dragged my path to form a new path, the tooltip would instantly update with time/distance calculations, which it used to do but isn't doing as part of this beta. (You have to "drop" your new path for it to update.)

Overall, there are a TON of improvements, and it's clear they're still working on adding your favorite features back in which is why it requires an invite right now.

But nice to see the Metafilter-entitled-whine-about-the-smallest-beans machine trundles on, even without perfectly rendered directions.
posted by disillusioned at 7:34 PM on May 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


The invite button now works, though as if to rub in the fact that they're omniscient creepy fucks, they don't even bother asking for your e-mail address. Assuming it uses the logged-in Gmail account at the time, but the page itself doesn't have any hints to that effect.
posted by odinsdream at 7:38 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Photo tours? EVEN MORE AMAZING. It's like Photosynth on steroids. The terminator, live clouds, 3D building rendering and such are just fantastic.

I knew that Google would eventually introduce killer robots, but I didn't think they'd start by sneaking them into maps.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:40 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brocktoon: “It means they're a private company, and not obligated.”

If you think the fact that they're a private company will preclude all discussion about whether people like changes to things they use every day, I think you'll be disappointed. Among other things, notice that the people who run Google themselves act like they disagree with you on this point. They attempt to please users, and they make moves to try to make sure the userbase gets features they want and need.
posted by koeselitz at 7:43 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


btw, the new gmail feature is a rip-off of AOL's beta mail client's big new feature.
posted by empath at 7:51 PM on May 29, 2013


It's faster than the old one for me. The only thing I miss is the right-click menu item 'What's Here?' that gave me quick access to lat/long coordinates.
posted by Memo at 7:57 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, this is fucking stupid. When I search for restaurants, I want to see all the restaurants. Not just the ones that Google thinks I might like.

Every sufficiently advanced monopoly reinvents Clippy.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:57 PM on May 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


I'm just kind of surprised that the Google Maps app on my phone kept trying to send me to an old location of a store today. I'm pretty sure the store moved before there were apps....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:58 PM on May 29, 2013


The Google Maps demo video is absolutely what they're getting at in the Unexotic Underclass article a few posts down.
posted by Joe Chip at 8:06 PM on May 29, 2013


I'm pretty sure the store moved before there were apps....

In the bottom right of the desktop Google Maps is a link that says "Report a Problem." In pages for a business on Maps for Android the menu has an item labeled "Report a Problem". On iOS just shake your iPhone to report a problem with the map you're looking at.
posted by GuyZero at 8:06 PM on May 29, 2013


Beautiful but slow, in an almost Windows Vista-esque way.

I don't know why people hate on Windows Vista so much. It had the XP-style taskbar but instant access to keyboard search by tapping the Windows key. The User Account Control stuff was mostly to scare developers straight, and could be easily turned off by a competent user. By comparison, Windows 7 is inexplicably slow and poky, especially in Explorer windows, which shouldn't have changed much since 1995. And the taskbar still drives me nuts after using it since it came out.

As for the new Google Maps, so far it's unusably slow and I'm probably going to have to opt out. I think progress on the trend toward running everything in a browser window is still going take a while. This is way slower than Google Earth when I first used it about eight years and three computers ago.
posted by stopgap at 8:26 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


don't bubble us
In the last election thread here, there were a dozen or two upvotes for "stop pissing on our parade" aimed at the first people to point out Obama's kill list, followed by actual moderator deletions to stop the "derail". By that point we were way past "bubble", we were just arguing how small the bubble should be. And yet here we still are.

As long as humans are happy to bubble ourselves, there's going to be unceasing demand for tools to make doing so easier. As long as we also feel uncomfortable about bubbling ourselves, there's also going to be subconscious demand for the tools to make doing so less obtrusive.
posted by roystgnr at 8:46 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought, Google only does this when it's angry. If I'm good it won't be angry so much and we can be happy. Then I came across this, and I began to cry a little: Big Changes Coming to Your Gmail Inbox
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:49 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


First Reader and now Maps? Why is Google insisting on crapifying their most useful services?
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:54 PM on May 29, 2013


The lack of traffic toggle pisses me off. But it's faster than the old version for me, and I like the rest of the interface.

Don't care about personalization. As long as I can shut it off in a setting on my cell, no worries.
posted by zarq at 8:54 PM on May 29, 2013


Big Changes Coming to Your Gmail Inbox

Arrrrrrgh.

YOU HAVE ONE JOB. SHOW PEOPLE THEIR MAIL.

If they can't handle the volume, then give them the option to filter things into folders. But don't filter or sort my mail without my say-so.
posted by zarq at 8:57 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought, Google only does this when it's angry. If I'm good it won't be angry so much and we can be happy. Then I came across this, and I began to cry a little: Big Changes Coming to Your Gmail Inbox

...

The new inbox is designed around five tabs: primary (for your human-to-human contacts), social (notices from Google+, which you knew they'd work in somehow, YouTube, and Picasa), promotions (retailers), updates (did your flight get changed? has your package shipped?), and forum (for message boards and group discussions).

Jesus H. Tebow, they cannot be serious with this.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:58 PM on May 29, 2013


The auto-filtered tabs can be enabled or disabled on a per-tab basis.

BUT PANIC ANYWAY BECAUSE WHO WANTS A WAY TO AUTOMATICALLY FILTER OUT QUASI-SPAM from all the actually important emails from real people... the horror.
posted by GuyZero at 9:06 PM on May 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


Where has the traffic toggle gone?

Type the word "traffic" in the search bar.

I'm not a big fan of the missing toggles, especially when using it on one of my PCs. I don't want to use voice commands on PCs, especially seeing I don't have microphones connected.

The Earth looks beautiful on the two computers I've tested on so far. The new map search is good for me so far. I am a little disappointed that Google hasn't learned me better. I have a Nexus 4, Gmail, Google accounts everywhere, but it still hasn't figured me out, as evidenced by what shows up in the panels on my phone.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:07 PM on May 29, 2013


zarq, the traffic toggle shows up when you hover over the search box (along with bicycling and transit at closer zoom levels) or with "Show traffic" when directions are visible. I used it this morning to capture the totality of the Seattle traffic clusterfuck.
posted by lantius at 9:09 PM on May 29, 2013


There's no way to tell which areas or streets have Streetview and which don't.

Dealbreaker.

FYI, you can get an overall sense of streetview coverage here. Very helpful when playing Geoguessr.
posted by desjardins at 9:10 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


But don't filter or sort my mail without my say-so.

It's a good thing they didn't do that.
posted by empath at 9:11 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


BUT PANIC ANYWAY BECAUSE WHO WANTS A WAY TO AUTOMATICALLY FILTER OUT QUASI-SPAM from all the actually important emails from real people...

Considering how bad the system currently is at selecting my "Priority" emails, it's pretty much guaranteed they'll screw up a new filtering tab system, too.

At least we can shut it off. Glad they're giving us that option.

zarq, the traffic toggle shows up when you hover over the search box (along with bicycling and transit at closer zoom levels) or with "Show traffic" when directions are visible. I used it this morning to capture the totality of the Seattle traffic clusterfuck.


Thanks, lantius.
posted by zarq at 9:15 PM on May 29, 2013


Well if what Google Maps knows about me is akin to how supposedly Facebook knows you are going to breakup with your partner before you do, perhaps I should be concerned about the fact that it seems to be privileging "Blossom Birth Services" in my current view over all the hipster bars/restaurants on the same block.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:23 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they can't handle the volume, then give them the option to filter things into folders. But don't filter or sort my mail without my say-so.

But they already do! Gmail organizes any back-and-forth e-mail correspondence involving the same sender and recipient into a "conversation," breaking the chronological order of the Inbox in favor of its own desired sort, and filtering so that you only get a peek at the most recent e-mail in the chain.

(But I just checked, and indeed, you can turn that feature off. But you can presumably turn off the new features you don't like, too!)
posted by escabeche at 9:31 PM on May 29, 2013


BUT PANIC ANYWAY BECAUSE WHO WANTS A WAY TO AUTOMATICALLY FILTER OUT QUASI-SPAM from all the actually important emails from real people... the horror.

It already has a way of doing that without using tabs. Google's business is advertising, so I suspect its rationale is that every tab gives it a chance to show you another set of ads, and the ability to target those ads to the tab you're looking at.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:32 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I generally like Google products, but I have to say that the new Maps interface is really terrible. None of the good stuff is where it is supposed to be, like Streetview. I went to where we spend time in Japan, centered on our house, and clicked something like Streetview that insisted on taking me to some place in the hills, far outside of town.

I had also invested a lot of time creating custom maps, where do I find those?

And so sloooooooow.

It's as though Google is trying to emulate Apple or something. I didn't mind the learning curve on stuff like Gmail, and I even like G+, but this is just terrible.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 PM on May 29, 2013


I'm so confused by the thought of logging in into google for anything other than gmail. Why? I don't want your weird alien robot attempts at learning my behavior, google. I don't like you in that way.

I'm exactly the same way. I login to check my various gmail accounts, then immediately logout. I don't want to be logged in for anything else I use Google for (except gated website-related stuff like Analytics where I don't have a choice).

I recently checked out Google+ and it scared and confused the living shit out of me. Nope, I'll just continue logging in for mail and logging out again, thanks anyway G-pals!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:34 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, fuck "My Places" (all the maps I've created) is not supported in the new Google Maps. That totally fucking sucks.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 PM on May 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


so… how do I drop the little person into some arbitrary spot to explore? I can't?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 9:47 PM on May 29, 2013


Hmmm, as far as I can tell, you have to type in where you want to search on the map. The map centers on that spot, and in the left-hand corner there will be an image tile of the area inviting you to use Streetview.

That's easy (kind of).

However, if you drag the map to a different place, there doesn't seem to be a way to use Streetview. Clicking on the Streetview image tile will take you back to where you where before.

It seems as though Google is trying to radically change how people use Maps, based on the assumption, I guess, that people are using Maps (or ought to be using Maps) to look for local businesses.

So yet another nail in the coffin for the exploratory coolness factor of Google products. We're all consumers now.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:53 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute, right-clicking on a spot on the map (where you want to use Streetview) seems to bring up an image tile, which you can click on and then use Streetview.

Some of the businesses in the small town I lived in in Japan have interior views too, which is kind of cool.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:55 PM on May 29, 2013


Way to reduce utility, Google.

Well, they're increasing utility for the two groups of people that matter: the 80% of search users that will just click on the first few results no matter what, and advertisers and businesses that want to grab their attention.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:56 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Come on, Google. We all know there’s not a tiny man in our computer drawing each map by hand (though Foxconn could probably make that happen).

Nice zing...
posted by bloggerwench at 10:22 PM on May 29, 2013


For people interested in a little more depth, you can check out the I/O talk from the lead UX Designer and the Engineering Director for Google Maps.
posted by lantius at 10:26 PM on May 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


I remember when the original Google Maps was unusably slow.
posted by aniola at 10:32 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


based on the assumption, I guess, that people are using Maps (or ought to be using Maps) to look for local businesses.

This is surely a pretty common use case (although I tend to straight up head to a general search engine first, which will then give me a nice little map anyway), but it's not the only use case. Searching for businesses around you isn't the only purpose of a map. One incredibly useful purpose of a map, for example, is just to have fun, to explore, to see what's beyond the next hill. To drag the map to darkest Africa and see what the towns look like there, to see if anyone's geotagged a photo on top of that mountain. But with the hiding of Streetview, the removal of My Places, it looks like Google isn't that interested in this any more. Better just to try to drive you to advertisers.

Look it's not dreadful. But it's less useful, and has fallen foul to the modern "get rid of anything anyone who's not a total uber-consumer sucker would want" interface paradigm.

Thankfully, the API is still there and people can build their own things on the underlying geographic data. For a while, anyway.
posted by Jimbob at 12:00 AM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember when the original Google Maps was unusably slow.

I remember that too. It was still better than whatever the alternative was...Yahoo maps? Mapquest? Whereis?
posted by Jimbob at 12:01 AM on May 30, 2013


I think the whole new Maps interface is basically tied in to Google Now, Google's answer to Siri. I suppose because there are just so many Android devices out there now, and since so many people use their Android mobiles for "Local" search (like the use case I sketched out above), they really want to tie desktop search to that.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 AM on May 30, 2013


Streetview is still there. Click on the map and see the location change in the corner. Click streetview image.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:33 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Streetview is still there.

Yes, but (a) you can't see what areas are actually covered by Streetview like you used to be able to - you just have to click and hope, and (b) you can't do any kind of split Streetview / Map interface like you used to. It's been reduced to the type of Streetview interface you get when using Google Maps on your phone. It's shittier than it used to be, less useful.
posted by Jimbob at 1:42 AM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


IIRC MapQuest was dominant through at least 2008. It's interesting to read this student UX comparison done between it and Google Maps back in 2005:
Users were unaware of the “drag” function of Google Maps. 5 out of 6 users manipulated the map using only the arrows to pan, or move, the map around they were completely unaware that you could click and drag the map around (see Figure 5.9)
posted by lantius at 1:56 AM on May 30, 2013


I found it pretty slow, and it got stuck on "Earth" mode where I had to close the tab. If the code doesn't get optimized I'm going to have to switch back, at least until I get a better PC.

I'm OK with the concept of personalization. One of the things that drives me crazy on Google Earth is the complete randomness of placemarks, photography, and so forth. The only saving grace is that there isn't an obvious way to create these unless you're a user of the Google Earth website, so that's limited input to some dedicated, interested geography nuts, but there's still a lot of crap and in popular areas it piles up like crazy -- and worst of all it's often very outdated. If I could have that "smart filtered" I'd be very happy.

So I think a general problem faced by GMaps is density and accumulation of data. Rand McNally, or DeLorme, or whomever, could focus on a few classes of things to include, and even then they would have to make tricky editing decisions, especially when you had long place names or other constraints. With GMaps the amount of stuff you can presumably access should only be increasing and there's a point where there's just too much. Now, I don't have inside-restaurant StreetView here in my podunk small city, but there are still going to be issues with listings and the "useful" view size might be different because nobody walks here (at least, outside of the unexotic poor).

Still, I can imagine it would be annoying if you got GMaps to recognize that you love pizza and so even when you're sightseeing Beijing it insists on showing you the pizza places on the map. Dunno how that will work. I mean, maybe that trip to China is the only time in your life you'd like to see five-star hotels and restaurants, right? One hopes that there will be some customization available, although the history of Google is that it eliminates or tightens these options over time, in my experience.
posted by dhartung at 2:11 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mapquest is still a thing, FYI.
posted by empath at 2:24 AM on May 30, 2013


What Jimbob says about not being able to see the coverage of Streetviews (by dragging the "ragdoll") onto the map is a huge concern to me. I use Google Maps for exploring the world and mapping my bike rides, never for looking for restaurants or popular shopping places.
posted by rmmcclay at 5:03 AM on May 30, 2013


Ah, fuck "My Places" (all the maps I've created) is not supported in the new Google Maps. That totally fucking sucks.

It's not feature complete yet.
posted by jaduncan at 5:26 AM on May 30, 2013


Hey guys, remember when we had actual maps. No, not Google Maps, but maps, made out of like paper. And there were two kinds of maps, ones that they put in books that you could see where stuff but not how to get to it and ones that you could see how to get to places. But the book ones never fit into your glove box, and the ones that did fit were so complicated to fold that you either had to get a second degree in quantitative physics just to be able to fold it, or lose the use of your passenger seat floorboard for good?

And then they introduced bound maps... which were great because they didn't need to be folded, but they were so dang large that they had to create something called a "mini-van" just so people could have enough vertical space to read the things.

And then they introduced the MapQuest... which was great, but only if your printer wasn't running out of blue and or green ink that month. Because if that were the case then you actually had to bring the Packard Bell into the mini-van with you.

And then they introduced something called a Garmin... which was great, but only if you didn't mind following directions that were so outdated that they actually took you to Jimmy Carter's house for lunch by mistake on a regular basis.

And then they introduced something called a SmartPhone... which was great, but only if you had a second job to pay for that extra 10 meg of data charges it would inevitably incur.

And then they introduced something called an Unlimited Data Plan... which was great, but only if you were in an area that had cell service.

And then they introduced national calling plans... which were great, except they could only be done by national carriers and all of the smaller companies got eaten up by Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

And then you had a phone from Verizon, AT&T or Sprint... which was great until you realized that you were paying more than you were with that local carrier back in the day.

tl;dr: Everything changes, except the fact that people will complain about anything.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:28 AM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm really tired of the "tailored experience" thing, especially from Google. When I use a tool, I want to use that tool the way I want to use it. I don't want to use it the way someone else thinks I want to use it. I already have to convince Google search that yes, I really do want to actually search for whatever I typed into the search bar. Will I now have to contend with, "There? You don't want to go there. Nobody goes there. You probably mean here."
posted by Legomancer at 5:31 AM on May 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Me, I just want an ipad specific google maps. I am still experimenting with the UI. But I am going to say that gMaps is a good thing. You have a level of data and analysis that borders on science fiction creepy but, it is my guilty pleasure. Which leads me to this, a fear of it being pulled. Right now, you have the set up a gReader similar problem, a free service that so much else depends upon. Garmin and TomTom must be freaking out, because apps using gMaps are priced way below and are better designed than their stuff. I say this as an owner of garmin TomTom and a POS Honda pilot in car system.

I will play with it some more. Google makes it so hard to quit the ecosystem. But priorities, need to quit the Adobe hostage situation first.
posted by jadepearl at 5:56 AM on May 30, 2013


I'm so confused by the thought of logging in into google for anything other than gmail. Why?

Being able to "bookmark" (or "star" or whatever the term is) a location or address on Gmaps so that I can easily find it again later on is really handy. Especially if I'm looking up a location on my PC on Gmaps, star it on the PC, then later when I'm out and about I use Gmaps on my phone and the star is already on there too because I'm logged into Google and it's synced my Gmaps data.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:23 AM on May 30, 2013


tl;dr: Everything changes, except the fact that people will complain about anything.

You've got a great career at Hallmark ahead of you.
posted by invitapriore at 7:41 AM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Since I’ve started using external references while playing GeoGuessr, I can’t imagine what the personalization feature will make of my map search history. “Huh, I guess he’s very interested in gas stations in rural Australia, Brazil, and Ukraine.”
posted by nicepersonality at 8:19 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like Google is rearranging the deck chairs for want of something better to do. Maps are a language unto themselves which is why we have to learn to read them, and language is a commonly agreed-upon idiom with which to communicate. This personalization "feature" seems to want to ignore the "commonly agreed-upon" part of mapping which then transforms Google Maps into a broadcast tool where Google tells you what they want you to know rather than a research tool which helps you find what you are looking for.

Then again, Google is an advertising company so none of this should surprise me.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:07 PM on May 30, 2013


I'm in the minority I suppose. I tried out the maps and generally found it to be a good improvement. Hardware needs to catch up a little and some features are forthcoming or moved to other places, but I see it on a trajectory of a net gain. It happens to be free also. I remember paying money for physical maps and mapping software, so I still get a bit giddy at the whole idea that a rich and vibrant map is available for free.
posted by dgran at 1:07 PM on May 30, 2013


I think there is a replacement for "My Places" (where, with the old Maps, you could create your own maps within Maps), and there seems to be a tutorial.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:33 PM on May 30, 2013


It isn't just about not liking how things change. There are some nice improvements, but it seems Google really is reducing the functionality of Maps *as a map* in order to encourage people to use it as merely a search tool. As noted above, this shouldn't be surprising, but there are some pretty basic things that you can no longer do, such as:

-getting directions with multiple destinations along your route
-being able to view bike lanes/routes while getting bike directions (!)
-seeing latitude and longitude for a location
-viewing the terrain
-using tools such as Pegman to explore places at random easily
-lots of things that were useful when planning a road trip, such as using layers to get directions while simultaneously viewing search results for various locations

Classic Maps is still available, but I'm afraid not for long.
posted by theory at 3:44 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh you log into Google? I didn't know I was better than you!
posted by Brocktoon at 7:04 AM on May 31, 2013


Here's what I don't get: if it's personalized, then isn't it mostly going to emphasize the places you go? And don't you....already know how to get to the places you go?

The whole point of a map, to me, is to direct me to somewhere new. When I'm traveling, I like to zoom in really close on Google Maps so it can show me, say, a good local sandwich place I may not otherwise find. I don't need Google Maps to tell me how to get to my local coffee shop, or dry cleaner, or preferred gas station, because I already know how to get to those places.

I just don't understand the purpose of marking a map with places if you already know where those places are. But I don't spend my life as a slave to a GPS, so maybe I'm in the minority on that one. I like to be aware of my surroundings.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:48 AM on May 31, 2013


The Germans need to come up with a concise word for "having massive amounts of data and computational power and therefore feeling the need to try to solve everyone's problems before they asked for them to be solved". I agree, breakin' the law. Google Maps is fantastic as a map - as a search engine, I guess it's good too, but that's not its primary purpose, for me. Not being able to get the latitude/longitude for a location really impacted on my work today, and taking away the short url interface was annoying to me today as well. I had to go through bit.ly. I guess I've got to suck it up an accept that while Google Maps was a great tool for my work and pleasure, that wasn't helping Google at all so, under their present philosophy, it wasn't likely to last.

I like the big, fullscreen interface, I do. Big maps are always better than small maps. I just wish there was a bit of a toolbar up there proving the functionality they used to provide. Rather than saying "our cattle customers are too stupid to know how to drop the little man on the map to access Streetview so lets kill it", I wish they'd said "people are smart and creative so lets pack a whole pile of cool features into this so people can take control". This isn't the way the web is headed, unfortunately. But, as long as they keep the API alive, all is not lost.

I should stop complaining. It's still an incredible piece of technology. I just like to think human beings are smart, capable of learning, know what they want and know how to look for it.
posted by Jimbob at 7:59 AM on May 31, 2013


I just like to think human beings are smart, capable of learning, know what they want and know how to look for it.

They are also lazy and prone to habituation, which explains bubble-seeking behavior and various other things the big G capitalizes on.

On an unrelated note, be patient, folks! It's an opt-in beta which admits to being feature-incomplete, though the complete features do hint at Google's priorities. But wait until it goes GA, then we can start grieving our dear departed ponies.
posted by MoTLD at 12:36 AM on June 1, 2013


Sheer frustration today using desktop Google Maps to plan a route. In the past I would search for the route and quickly create a custom map (under "My Places") that I could then view on my phone immediately, but there is no way to do that now.

The Maps G+ page has the helpful advice: "copy the URL of the map you've created, shorten it using the Google URL shortener tool, paste into an email, and share", which is totally ridiculous.

Luckily, under the settings icon in the top-right corner of the page, there is now a menu item for "My Places", which takes you back to the old version of Maps, where I will stay for now.

I guess the thing is, is there a substitute for Google Maps where you can just look for addresses and plan routes?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:57 AM on June 1, 2013


In regards to My Maps:

Google says it will still offer My Maps, its earlier custom mapping tool, for the time being and My Maps users can import their maps into the new Maps Engine Lite. Over time, however, Google product manager Beth Liebert writes in today’s announcement, My Maps will be “incorporated into Google Maps Engine Lite.”
posted by KokuRyu at 12:14 PM on June 1, 2013


Just got the invite for the new maps, activated it and then disabled it within fifteen minutes. Wow, that's bad. You can't scroll with the arrow keys or zoom with the +/- keys. What the hell? I'm supposed to just drag the map around with the scroll pad? That's not happening.
posted by octothorpe at 7:17 PM on June 3, 2013


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