Google lets users visualize edits to Google Maps

New real-time viewer shows edits made by users worldwide to Google's mapping software

Google has created a real-time viewer that allows users to watch as other users around the world make changes to locations on the maps, the company announced Thursday.

Google began allowing its users to edit locations on Google Maps in November as part of an effort to ensure that homes and businesses are marked in the correct location. While Google restricted access to some listings like hospitals, government buildings and businesses whose listings have been sited through Google's Local Business center, other users could move arrows marking locations. Some edits like moving a marker more than 200 yards from its original location requires a moderator's approval before they show up on Google.

The new viewer lets users "just sit back and watch the world's information improving bit by bit, edit by edit," Charles Spirakis, software engineer at Google Maps, said in a blog post. "I warn you, though, it's highly addictive (almost as addictive as helping make the improvements yourself!)."

Adam Ostrow, a blogger at Mashable, wrote that Google Maps is evolving to become Google's best homegrown social product.

"Although more of a 'that's cool' feature than something incredibly useful, the visualization does highlight the growing importance of social features in Google Maps," Ostrow wrote in a blog post. "They've also recently released collaborative maps, community maps, and in Google Earth, you can now see geo-tagged YouTube videos."

Ostrow said that Google's efforts to ramp up Google Maps seem to be paying off, citing a Hitwise report last week showing that Google is quickly narrowing the gap between its traffic and that of MapQuest. While 426% more users visited MapQuest than Google Maps in 2006, the lead was cut significantly last year as MapQuest pulled in only 126% more traffic than Google Maps.

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