Google Maps Is A User Friendly Information Technology Essay

Google Maps is a user-friendly mapping technology and local business information hub. In its absolute form, Google Maps is comprised of high resolution images take from satellites, aerial shots and street view shots. It includes most locations in the world except sensitive map information such as military locations. Google Map allows users to do panning and searching locations, it is 2 different technologies involved, Telcontar and Data transfer. 

Telcontar technology allows retrieving data and information. During the process it can also calculate the route and directions. Telconatar is the mapping company behind Google map, it organize its mapping format into Rich Map Format to allow real time transfers of map data. When users zoom in the map to get more details, it is compiled by layers and layers of mini maps use to create an illusion of depth.

Since its launch in 2006, Google Maps has seen a comprehensive history. Before it was Google Maps, it was a software application developed by first by Lars and Jens Rasmussen for the company Where2. In October 2004 the company was acquired by Google Inc where it transformed into the web application Google Maps and soon first announced on the Google Blog on February 8, 2005.

The year 2006 saw major developments for Maps. In January, road maps for the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and some cities in the Republic of Ireland. That same month Google Maps was updated to use the same satellite image database as Google Earth. This set the premise for subsequent integration of Google Local into the main Google Maps site in April 2006. Also this year, Google added geocoding capabilities to the API, fulfilling what it called the most requested feature for this service and introduces Google Maps for Enterprises. Also in 2006 Google integrates the PlusBox? in the main search results and later added a feature that allowed users to list multiple destinations to driving directions.

In 2007, buildings and subway stops of New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco , and some other cities are being displayed in map view. Correspondingly, Google Traffic Info was officially launched to automatically include real-time traffic flowconditions to the maps of 30 major cities of the United States. 2007 also saw the rolling out of Universal search results to include more Map information on the main Google results page, including neighbourhood search capability supported by Maps, Google driving directions support and the addition of Street View. Notably, this year Google expanded country coverage adding 54 new countries. Terrain” view showing basic topographic features was added. This meant that “Hybrid” view button was replaced with a “Show labels”, allowing switch between “Hybrid” and “Satellite” views. Today, Google Maps has evolved into more than just a map service. Offering street maps, route planners, real estate, and business locators all over the world, According to one of Google Maps creators, Lars Rasmussen, it is “a way of organizing the world’s information geographically”. The key features of Google Maps include:

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• Integrated business search results – Find business locations and contact information all in one location, integrated on the map. 

• Drag friendly maps – Click and drag maps to view adjacent sections instantly (no long waits for new areas to download). 

• Satellite imagery – View a satellite image (or a satellite image with superimposed map data) of your desired location that you can zoom and pan. 

• Earth view – Click the Earth button to view 3D imagery and terrain from Google Earth on Maps that you can zoom, pan, and tilt. 

• Detailed directions – Enter an address and let Google Maps plot the location and driving/walking directions for you. Multiple destinations can be added, and there is also the ability to drag a route in order to customise it.

One of the main features of Google Maps is ‘Street View’, released in 2007, is its provision of a 360 degree panoramic view at street level. The launch of Street View attracted much controversy in regards to privacy concerns towards the uncensored photographs. Subsequently, with the aid of face detection software, Google has since been blurring out the faces of people that feature in the images.

Google maps as a participatory means is effective because it makes participating easy. In large part, due to the free downloads and customizable Web interfaces they are generating a grass-roots interest in mapping and related spatial products (D. Butler, 2006). The results include a variety of participatory products with advocacy often rising to the surface. With features such as Real Estate purchasing/selling function and 360 degree street views to their site, Google Maps is not simply a map service. Some recent inclusions to Google Maps include a live traffic feature and a new base map dataset that includes numerous publicly accessible geospatial government-created datasets, with information pertaining to toll roads, bridges, road networks and the like.

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How does your area relate to the themes of participatory media and user- generated content?

Cyberspace is continuously evolving into a place of social interaction, collaborative creation and discovery. As a new media tool that fosters participatory and user-generated content, Google Maps steps away from static representation therefore changing the ways we ‘see things’. Features such as multiple views, business directory links, enabled user image uploads and commentary add another dimension to conventional mapping. More so, Google Maps is a means of locomotive media; a common interface for news, media, and data. Its features enable and foster the production of local, multifaceted community archives and multi-perspective views of geographical regions by users. According to Hamilton (394), it can potentially establish an important contextual relationship between the site of production and online spaces. To highlight, Google-Mash Up Editor will be looked at.

Google Mash-up Editor allows for user-generated content, with users having the ability to easily develop simple web applications with Google services such as Google Maps. It is an AJAX development framework that allows users to manipulate these Google services to create new mash-ups through the combination of existing web applications. Creating applications with Google Mash-up Editor is a simple process using familiar technologies. With the use of “XML tags, Javascript, CSS, and HTML, applications can be built in less time and with less work.” 

Geotwitter is a mash up of the Google maps API and the Twitter API, which provides a geographic location of a person’s twitter updates. Geotwitter consists of a Twitter login and Twitter style update messages with attached links that users see on a Google Map. Users are able to upload images into the map, which can be viewed on mobile devices.

Figure 1 Geotwitter

Another example of a mash-up, that in semi-real time depicts where anonymous Wikipedia edits are originating. The creator of this application is László Kozma, a graduate student at the Helsinki University of Technology. Launched in 2007, it is a collaboration of Wikipedia’s ‘recent changes feed’ with Google maps, allowing for a visualisation of the editors location. The map displays the title of the article, the geographic location of the editor, a brief description of the changes, as well as a link to the edited page itself.

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Figure 2 Wikipedivision 

In 2009, Google vice president of engineering, Vic Gundotra, announced that Google Mash-up Editor would cease to exist and its services would instead become apart of the Google Application Engine (Kraemer 2009). This was the fate for many Google applications that were not deemed as successful as Gmail and Google Documents, these included Jaiku, Dodgeball.com, Mashup Editor, Catalog Search, Google Notebook and Google Video (Karemer 2009).

A discussion of the critical issues surrounding your topic.

With respect to privacy Google are proactive in protecting identity. If a face has been snapped on street view it is digitally blurred and also will digitally remove people. Features such as street view provoke a kind of moral panic and renegotiations around the right to privacy in public places (Burgess 2007). This is an underlying issue recognised literature wide in web 2.0, stemming from legitimacy around the mass documentation of ‘private’ individuals in public space”. This also ties in with the issue of security, with several robbery and stalking inicidences tied to Google Maps. Conversly, Maps has been used in favour of supporting authorities, amd the law (See Lur 2010).

In a similar fashion regarding privacy, it has recently emerged that whilst cumulating Street View imagery Google has inadvertdley also collected personal data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. In response to this, Google was quick to rectify saying “As soon as we became aware of this problem, we grounded our Street View cars and segregated the data on our network, which we then disconnected to make it inaccessible”.

In terms of participation, Google Maps satisfies the new media need for users to exercise their degree of use. Jenkins (2006) hones in on the issue, saying that ‘new media culture should be sic? elective…people can opt in and out of different levels of participation. A feature which supports this is having three different map views. There is a normal map view, a satellite image view and a terrain view, depending on the need of the user.

From a functional and technical stance, there are a number of issues with Google Maps. For one is the issues of accessibility, with mobile devices having limited and sometimes disorted use of maps. Another is the automatic mergeging business listings in the same vicinity. This causes the loss of businesss information and leads to misinformation for users.

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