Australia's Internet terra nullius is no more with today's official launch of Google Maps Australia, an online mapping service that provides topographical satellite images, driving directions and business listings.
Although online since 2005, the site offered only limited functionality with street addresses, maps and satellite images, but today's launch now puts it on par with its US counterpart. With local map and satellite images, driving directions and support for Google Maps on mobile phones, the service not only offers ample supplies for prying birds-eye enthusiasts, but also serves up a challenge to Australia's online Yellow Pages with the addition of its extensive online search service for Australian businesses.
Partnering with News Ltd's Truelocal.com.au site, Google Maps Australia has boosted its online business directory to over 1.3 million Australian business listings.
The new search service allows users to input any business type with an accompanied suburb to pull-up a list of nearby relevant results. For example, users who enter "restaurant, Leichhardt", will be supplied with a map showing all restaurants in the area with a Truelocal listing. From here, users can select a desired business to find out additional information such as contacts, street address, hours of operation, payment options and Wi-Fi hot spots. Driving directions can also be overlayed from any point of interest for easy navigation.
"Google Maps Australia combines extensive business listings and relevant information from across the Web to give Australian users a powerful and easy-to-use source to access local information," said Lars Rasmussen, head of engineering, Google Australia. "Much of the world's information is geographically relevant and so Google Maps plays an important role in our mission to organise this information in a way that is useful at a local community level."
The service is offered free of charge for both business and everyday users, but business owners looking to add or modify their own listings must first verify themselves with Google.
Users wishing to access Google Maps from a mobile phone are required to download the free Google Maps Mobile application.