Industry data* shows that Google Maps is the no. 1 app for British users. And with over 7.5million unique visitors in October 2011 alone, it seems like pretenders to the Google throne have got some catching up to do. With innovations such as Google Earth, Google Street View, and now Google Transit, that number will probably only continue to grow, as Google continue to extend their search and mapping functionality.
You may remember the furore last year when Google debuted flight search technology in the US. And only last week Google expanded the functionality of Google Transit by adding the ability for users of their UK maps to search for train routes in addition to journeys made by car and on foot.
With their latest offering, in partnership with theTrainline, customers can search for UK trains and book them via theTrainline's external site. Google have added more than 2500 stations and 170,000 routes, in addition to the 250 tube stations and 8000 bus stops already available. Google claims that it will make journey planning for the Olympics much easier, which may be true, but in this guest article for Wired, Loco2 Managing Director, Jamie Andrews questions whether their latest move runs contrary to the neutral position usually expected of Google.
Last year, Google collaborated with TFL to offer detailed tube tram and bus information, so it came as a surprise that Google should co-operate with an independent company rather than National Rail Enquiries, which points people to individual rail operators. Google UK’s geospatial technologist , Ed Parsons, explains,“Google Maps seeks to provide a wide range of local information, and public transport station and schedule information is definitely a part of that. This means we can reach and help a larger number of people with useful national rail train information.” We know better than most that navigating the rails in the UK, as with Europe, is hard enough already so we're welcoming the innovation but what does this mean for the future of Google's empire?
What do you think? Does Google's decision compromise their generally non-aligned stance? Or does it just make something that people are doing anyway (searching various rail sites, potentially translating it into their native language) easier? What's next for Google Maps?** Let us know in the comments below!