Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Google Maps - New Feature - GoogleBar

Google unveiled a great new feature for Google Maps this week. Called "GoogleBar", it displays an embedded search box in your map and the results show up within your map window. Below is an example of the GoogleBar in action. Try and search for Starbuck's in downtown Denver. This is an awesome feature - especially for those who wish to embed a map on their website. Here are some of my thoughts about improvements to this feature: 1. The map owner should be able to constrain the search space to a specific area on the map, preferably the current view extent, or a user definable extent. 2. The search results should pop-up on a semi-transparent background. 3. As I move over the results the corresponding icons on the map should get highlighted. 4. One should be able to place the search bar in any corner of the map. (not just the bottom left). 5. The GoogleBar should automatically collapse to its minimized state when I click outside it. This map also brings up one of my biggest issues with GoogleMaps. Even though Google is the search leader - many a times its results for maps is not as good as that provided by Live Maps. For example try a search for Starbuck in the above map. The results include just one of the coffee shops, which is outside the original extents of the map. Instead if you search for Starbucks, all of the results include the coffee shops in downtown Denver. In Live Maps, whether you search for Starbuck or Starbucks, you get the same set of results. Obviously depending on what you are searching for, the results from Google might look more reasonable to you (that is if you are search for people with last names Starbuck). But in this case I would think that most people would be interested in the Starbuck's coffee chain. Google was one of the first to pioneer a search where the plural of a word wouldn't matter (try doing a normal web search using Starbuck and Starbucks - the first few results point to the coffee chain). So I have to wonder - why they don't use the same heuristics for the map search.

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