Google Maps turns 10 teaser 001

Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of Google Maps, arguably the best consumer mapping application in the world.

Maps first started as a C++ program designed by two Danish brothers Lars and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen at the Sydney-based company Where 2 Technologies.

After pitching their idea for a web-based version to Google management, the search giant in its never-ending pursuit of new revenue sources snapped up the young startup in October 2004.

Under Google’s stewardship and the oversight of current Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who in 2005 became Vice President of Search Products and User Experience at Google, the project quickly transformed from a relatively unimpressive desktop program into a full-blown web service.

Since its inception, Google Maps has been praised by critics and haters alike for its accuracy, coverage and the rapid pace of development resulting in new feature additions on a regular basis. It’s been imitated by both Yahoo and Microsoft, and later by Apple, but none of these technology giants has come close to touching Google Maps.

“We think maps can be useful and fun, so we’ve designed Google Maps to simplify how to get from point A to point B,” reads Google’s announcement blog post dated January 8, 2005.

The service from the onset sported vector maps, nearby points of interest, step-by-step directions and more. In April 2005, a brand new (and pretty basic) mobile Maps app launched on select handsets in the United States.

A month later, Google Earth rolled out for Mac and Windows PCs, bringing with it stunning satellite imagery and 3D views that really helped ignite public interest in mapping services. With Google Earth, anyone could “spy” on their neighborhood.

In May 2007, Street View launched, bringing out another jaw-dropping feature to Google Maps on the web: 360-degree street-level photography.

It wasn’t until the iPhone’s debut on June 29, 2007 that Google Maps took off in a big way. As you know, Google Maps was among the headline features of the iPhone. Apple built it in partnership with Google and Steve Jobs went as far as to call it ”the best mapping application on any platform” during his January 2007 iPhone keynote.

Apple Maps 3D rendering issues

Five and a half years later, Apple killed Google Maps on the iPhone and iPad with the arrival of iOS 6 in September 2012.

But putting out a half-baked and much-maligned Maps service, seen above, quickly backfired. After the widely reported rendering issues and inaccuracies have tarnished the Apple brand, this rare misstep for Apple culminated in a CEO apology and the ousting of iOS boss Scott Forstall.

From there, the Apple Maps team doubled down on making sure the service wasn’t plagued with inaccuracies. Over time, Apple would enrich its Maps with better and more reliable data from third-party sources like TomTom and others.

Yet, nearly eight years since Google launched Street View, Apple still lacks this marquee feature. Only recently was Apple suspected of sending a fleet of mysterious black vans outfitted with cameras to roam streets throughout the country. Watchers believe the purpose of those vehicles is improving 3D Flyover view and maybe adding street-level photography to Apple Maps.

Be that as it may, Google back in June 2008 launched Maps Maker, giving everyone a much-needed tool to report inaccuracies and directly update geographic information in both Google Maps and Google Earth.

Google Maps turns 10 infographic 001

October 2009 brought turn-by-turn directions to Google Maps for Android and September 2010 enabled Street View across all seven continents. In September 2011, Google bought Zagat and integrated its database with Google Maps.

In June 2012, Street View became ever more awesome as Google announced the Trekker, a new imagery-gathering apparatus in the form of a wearable backpack outfitted with cameras. The Trekker can be leased and is used to capture Street View data in areas inaccessible by cars.

The much-awaited native Google Maps application for the finally hit the App Store in December 2012. Nearly a year later, the utilitarian design of Google Trekker came into full view as the Street View team captured the canals of Venice.

Last August, Google bought Skybox Imaging, which owns satellites that circle the orbit of the Earth and take very detailed photographs of the terrain.

Google Maps turns 10 infographic 002

And just this past week, the search firm introduced +Local Guides, a feature that gives top reviewers (also known as Local Guides) a special badge next to their review of a place with the latest version of Google Maps for Android.

“As we look ahead to the next 10 years, we hope you’re as excited as we are to navigate uncharted territory in pursuit of the perfect map—together,” reads Google’s celebratory blog post.

Although Apple Maps is vastly improved and in some aspects even one-ups Google’s offering, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would argue that Apple’s beaten Google to the mapping punch because it hasn’t.

Don’t forget that Google has a ten-year headstart in mapping. Mapping is hard and no matter how you look at it, Apple has a long way to go before its Maps service becomes good enough to replace Google Maps on iOS for enough people.

So happy birthday, Google Maps, and here’s to the next ten years.

Do you use Google, Apple or some other provider for maps and navigation?

  • sdhn

    I use custom-made treasure maps.

    • Jack Thompson

      I already seen Jupiter Ascending, Seventh Son, Project Almanac, Black or White, American Sniper, The Boy Next Door, Blackhat, Mortdecai, The Wedding Ringer and Taken 3 on my iPhone 6 from lMOVlESAPP(dot)COM…

  • Fajr Lodhi

    Still better than Apple Maps! Whoohoo!

  • o_O

    Zibreg writes an article not rife with his usual bias? Unbelievable….I’m in shock

    • Digitalfeind

      Tomorrow he will write about some Samsung thing that magically ties into Apple. Maybe it can be called Six degrees of Apple.

  • Nic Roggeman

    I use both. Apple maps is easier to use when driving around our North American city, but when I travel or want to find cycle routes, I use Google Maps. It is an indispensable tool. This past summer, I used Google maps exclusively in Belgium and France as our primary GPS tool. Never once did we make a wrong turn. And we found bike routes that weren’t even available on the local department of tourism bike routes.

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    Google just got it right with maps and as long as they continue in the way they have, I see little chance of another company doing better.

  • Digitalfeind

    Happy birthday??

  • Fanboy 

    Maps is the one thing Google is/and will remain superior to Apple in my opinion. But this is due to the fact that they’ve been around for so long, the amount of data they have accumulated is extensive. I still use Google Maps over Apple.

  • Andrew

    Apple Maps works great where I live, which is in a major city. However my main gripe with it is that is doesn’t have public transit directions… So I have to keep Google Maps installed just for that. I mean really Apple. Come on…

  • Kr00

    Chalk up another win for innovation and invention to Australia. Add wifi to that list too.

  • Steve R.

    I only read the headline and just thought to myself “God, I feel old”

  • Innes

    I use Apple Maps on my i6+ for directions when driving for the good turn by turn directions but I usually go to google Maps for a streetview of my destination before setting off so I know what i’m looking for when I arrive. In my opinion Apple need to plug that hole and have their own ‘street view’ to really compete with google.

  • Tommmy

    Better than Apple maps but lags like hell on any device.

    • Dan

      doesn’t on mine

      • Tommmy

        It does, but since you can’t find any other alternative you wanted to say this. You can have you candy now.

      • Dan

        You’re saying that Google maps lags on any device? Then no. I just launched it right now and there is no lag. So I don’t see what’s the problem.

      • kv

        it lags. on my iphone 6 and ipad mini 2

      • Dan

        Doesn’t on my Note 4

  • kled23

    not arguably, its unanimously agreeable that Google is the prime map application, and other maps like apple,bing or other maps is still at a distance from the superiority of Google maps, though in offline maps , sygic, tomtom, igo maps etc are better services.

    • Rowan09

      Not true. Worldwide Google maps is not the best. In Jamaica and Turks and Caicos Google maps is just horrible. Even Apple maps works better in Jamaica than Google maps (no turn by turn on both). Here maps and Open Street maps I’ve heard trumps them all. I used an open street maps app (GPS Nav) when in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos and it’s amazing with turn by turn. Google maps may be great in popular destinations, but it’s not without its flaws like them all.

      • kled23

        so ur comparing few locations where google underperforms, but what about the rest which is a big majority, so are u gonna say google underperforms in so-so region so the rest are better, and forget abt all the other places, its proven google maps works , not just by average consumers like us but also tests from research and results , like the article said, mapping is a difficult task, so we have to compare their performance side by side, are u going to give maps free pass which ends its destination in rivers compared to others which gives near perfect results and outperforms in an average.

      • Rowan09

        Apple maps is not better than Google maps, Google maps is better. You said it’s unanimously agreed it’s the best and I don’t believe that’s true for worldwide usage.

      • kled23

        every place that i checked rating mapping apps, google maps is the runaway winner, ppl just like to add arguably to give more legitimacy to their piece or article, its ahead of all mapping apps out there, ppl just don’t want to admit it or add silly clause at the end, i dont have anything against apple or microsoft bing, and believe android os gets fragmented with time faster than ios, but i think credit needs to be given where its due, like google search is the best search engine, and google maps is the best mapping app, i dont see the hesitation.

      • Rowan09

        What’s the comparison being made to and what’s the qualifications? I agree locally Google maps is the best, but worldwide I would give the edge to Open Street Maps. Open Street Maps is open source unlike Google maps. I use Google search more than any other search engine, so I can’t really compare. I can tell you though that once you get past the first page, Google search queries are useless.

  • Ilkzz

    Nothing can beat Waze when driving. Even though its owned by Google, I still use Waze. I get to destinations faster, see traffic better, get alternative routes when in traffic and tons more

  • Dan

    Over here in Canada, Google Maps is excellent, I use it all the time, never steered my wrong.

  • Dante Arellano

    What happend with apple maps was faking for some reason they did it looks like fuckk up but was for one reason i wish no use nothing from google is more envasive than windows fuckk google