Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 

Google Maps available for the UK

Google Maps has expanded its coverage to the UK. Although it is available via the UK domain name, it still seems best to get at it via the main .com address, since that offers the "satellite" view that is missing from the UK domain entrance.

The maps used are unfortunately vector based maps - great in one respect in that they are easy to offer in multiple zoom levels, but they really do produce a poor quality map. The UK is very fortunate to have some of the best maps in the world, as produced by Ordnance Survey, and rival online mapping services at multimap and streetmap use that data.

The vector data also seems to be rather shot through with errors - I've found misnamed roads all over the place, and even when names are correctly named, the algorithms for automatically placing names on roads do a far worse job than individual human placement can achieve.

The search features now accept postcodes, but a national grid reference is not recognized, which is a shame since it's so easy to do, and that is how most UK locations have been accurately specified for decades.

The satellite data view is only available at very poor zoom level - again rival services are still well ahead of Google on this one.

The travel directions feature seems fairly competant, though I noticed that it tends to quote longer journey times than other offerings do - perhaps it is trying to apply US speed limits to UK roads.

Google Maps also seems to have acquired a prominent "Terms of Use" overlay link which appears on all maps - that's interesting to see , especially as Google have officially acknowledged the genius of Paul Rademacher Craigslist/Maps combo real estate listing, via endorsements on both the Official Google Blog and as the featured project at Google Code.

Comments:
Just to update you, Google Maps satellite images now cover the UK as well. There's a site which specialises in this: Google Sightseeing UK: http://www.ipod.org.uk/sightseeing/
 
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