This year marks the tenth anniversary of the introduction of Google Maps, meaning 2005 was the year when digital maps as we know them finally came into existence. This is one of our favourite apps and we think definitely one of the most useful out there.
Years ago, navigating meant struggling with paper maps or having to ask people for directions. These days, we can simply switch on our smartphone and see exactly where we are and which direction we need to be heading in. Whether we’re planning a driving route or simply looking for a particular shop or restaurant in an unfamiliar city, Google Maps is the way many of us do it.
Before 2005, there were other resources for online maps, but they were simply static diagrams. The idea for a more interactive type of map came from Danish development company Where 2 Technologies. The company was bought by Google and development of Google Maps began, along with the software that would enable the creation of Google Earth. The earliest form of Google Maps was launched on the 8th of February 2005. Although it wasn’t the first digital map application, it was the first to enter public consciousness in a big way and have a huge impact on the way people used technology to find their way around the real world.
The key difference was the innovative and extensive use of geospatial technology, which allowed Google to essentially create a huge, seamless map of the world. Over time this developed in features such as Google Street View, a massive undertaking which involved taking countless pictures of streets throughout the world and digitally “stitching” them together.
The rising popularity of smartphones made Google Maps even more essential; it made its first appearance as a smartphone app on the iPhone in 2007. Now people could have maps at their fingertips no matter where they were. If you found yourself out and about, unsure about which way to turn to find a particular place, you could now simply get your smartphone out and immediately get the directions you needed, complete with satellite navigation so you knew you were heading the right way to reach your destination.
There are other navigation apps, and new features being introduced all the time, such as notifications of interesting landmarks and facts so people not only know where they are, but also what they are looking at. But with ten years of success, it’s clear that Google Maps has showed us exactly what is possible when it comes to useful, practical apps that apply to the real world.