kottke.org posts about Google Maps

Smarty PinsJul 02 2014

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps-based geography quiz...you drop pins on the map to answer questions. You start with a total of 1000 miles and the game subtracts the number of miles you're off by for each answer.

Smarty Pin

I just spent far too long playing this. Can you beat my score of 39? Also, this reminds me of GeoGuessr, which is a lot more difficult.

Google Maps' impressive attention to detailMay 23 2014

If you look at the Washington Monument in Google Maps, the monument's shadow follows the motion of the Sun throughout the day.

Google Maps

The utility of this feature is unclear, but that is some impressive attention to detail. (via @sippey, @kennethn, @chrisfahey)

The Overview EffectMay 02 2014

Spain vineyardsThe Daily Overview offers up an interesting satellite photo every day. The site's name is inspired by the Overview Effect:

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts' perspective of Earth and mankind's place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 'Overview' is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features important commentary on the wider implications of this new understanding for both our society, and our relationship to the environment.

The Planetary Collective made a short documentary about the Overview Effect:

(thx, pavel)

To the ends of the EarthJun 17 2013

Alan Taylor recently investigated where Google Maps' Street View coverage ends -- "whether blocked by geographic features, international borders, or simply the lack of any further road" -- and compiled a photographic look at the ends of the road.

Lava Road

(via @faketv)

Explore history through Google MapsMay 16 2013

MyReadingMapped makes use of Google Maps & Google Earth to tell stories about history. For instance, here are maps of The Civil War and the American Revolution, a map of Roald Amundsen's 1910 South Pole expedition, and a map of the wars of Alexander the Great.

Time lapse satellite images, 1984-2012May 10 2013

Working with the USGS, NASA, and Time, Google has built a viewer for satellite image time lapses. Among the images are those of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the retreat of an Alaskan glacier, and the growth of Dubai. You can also refocus the map on any other area you want. More info here and here's the extensive Time feature.

GeoGuessrMay 09 2013

This is like CSI for geography dorks: you're plopped into a random location on Google Street View and you have to guess where in the world you are. So much fun...you get to say "wait, zoom in, enhance, whoa, back up" to yourself while playing. My top score is 14103...what'd you get? p.s. Using Google in another tab is cheating! (thx, nick)

Historical maps overlaid on Google MapsMay 01 2013

View the maps from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection overlaid on their locations on Google Maps.

Rumsey Google Maps

A great way to browse an incredible collection of maps. See also Google Earth Time Machine. (via @H_FJ)

Google Street View hyperlapse videoApr 10 2013

The term of art for time lapse videos in which the camera moves is hyperlapse. In playing around with the hyperlapse technique, Teehan+Lax developed a system to make hyperlapse videos using Google Street View. Like this one:

Make your own here.

Google Maps for iOSDec 13 2012

Your Apple Maps nightmare is over. Google has (finally!) released an iOS app for Google Maps.

How Google builds its mapsSep 07 2012

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal gets an inside look at how Google builds its maps (and what that means for the future of everything). "If Google's mission is to organize all the world's information, the most important challenge -- far larger than indexing the web -- is to take the world's physical information and make it accessible and useful."

The readability of online maps: it's the detailsDec 03 2010

A really nice analysis of the readability of maps from the three big online mapping companies: Google, Bing, and Yahoo. As you might expect, Google is the clear winner; they pay more attention to the little details than the other two services.

It turns out that Google uses a variety of techniques and visual tricks to help make its city labels much more readable than those of its competitors. From the use of different shadings to decluttering areas outside of major metro areas, it sure seems like Google has put a lot of thought into how it displays the labels appearing on its maps. I have no doubt that little touches like these are among the many reasons why Google remains the web's most popular mapping site.

Google Maps without the mapAug 20 2010

This is a Google Maps interface with everything but the location labels taken away.

Maps Without Maps

Take a little time with this one, zoom it in and out, especially on big cities. Excluding everything but the labels from the map emphasizes the Powers of Ten-like design of highly effective zoomable online maps. (via waxy)

Google Street View as documentary photographyAug 13 2009

An assessment: what sort of photographer is the Google Street View car?

Initially, I was attracted to the noisy amateur aesthetic of the raw images. Street Views evoked an urgency I felt was present in earlier street photography. With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer. It was tempting to see the images as a neutral and privileged representation of reality -- as though the Street Views, wrenched from any social context other than geospatial contiguity, were able to perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.

Time travel via Google MapsApr 08 2009

Phil Gyford has some intriguing thoughts on how Google Maps could develop in the years to come.

Imagine in, say, 2059 looking up a location on Google Maps and being able to dial the view back fifty years to see what that building looked like in 2009. Zoom back and forth in time to see how the place changed as decades flip by. That will be amazing.

(via migurski)

Update: Google Earth already does historical comparisons. (thx, garo)

1600 Pennsylvania AvenuesNov 12 2008

David Friedman used Google Maps Street View to see what America's other 1600 Pennsylvania Avenues look like. Perhaps when Bush leaves office, he can buy the fixer-upper at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Dallas, TX as a retirement home.

NYC subway directions on Google MapsSep 23 2008

Google has added transit directions to Google Maps. Finally.

We've just added comprehensive transit info for the entire New York metro region, encompassing subway, commuter rail, bus and ferry services from the Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit and the City of New York.

One feature I'd like: a quick at-a-glance comparison of the three travel methods (walking, subway/train, driving) to see which is going to take less time.

Long drives on Google MapsMay 01 2008

Alan Taylor has collected the longest drives that Google Maps will give driving directions for.

It turns out there are multiple "longest drives", because the Google Maps World is partitioned (many countries don't support driving directions), and sometimes ferries are included, and sometimes they are not.

The longest he's found so far is from the Aleutian Islands to the tip of Newfoundland, a distance of over 7,200 miles. You can drag the path around to make it a lot longer (more than 11,000 miles) but that's cheating.

Quick iPhone reviewJun 30 2007

- I'm kind of amazed that this thing lives up to the expectations I had for it. It's an amazing device.

- To read RSS, just put a feed address into Safari and Apple redirects it through their iPhone feed reader. But it's very much of an a la carte thing, one feed at a time. What's needed is a proper newsreader with its own icon on home screen. Workarounds for now: Google Reader looks nice or you could make a collective feed that combines all the feeds you want to read on your iPhone and use that with the iPhone feed reader (Meg's idea).

- I skipped the index finger and am right into the two thumb typing. With the software correction, it's surprisingly easy. Or maybe I just have small lady thumbs.

- After fiddling with it for an hour, I know how to work the iPhone better than the Nokia I had for the past 2 years, even though the Nokia has far fewer capabilities.

- I could use the Google Maps app forever.

- When I go back to using my Macbook Pro, I want to fling stuff around the screen like on the iPhone. It's an addictive way to interface with information.

- Finding Nemo looked really nice on the widescreen display.

- You can pinch and expand with two thumbs instead of your thumb and index finger.

- The camera is not what you would call great, but it's as good as my old phone's, which is about all I want out of it. The lack of video is a bit of a bummer.

- I Twittered from on line at the AT&T store that the line was moving slowly because they were doing in-store credit checks and contract sign-ups, contrary to what everyone had been told by Apple beforehand. That was not the case. They were just being super careful with everything...each phone and the bag that it went into had a bar code on it and they were scanning everything and running phones from the back of the store one at a time. The staff was helpful and courteous and it was a very smooth transaction, all things considered. I was on line for 2 hours before the store opened and then another 2 hours waiting to get into the store.

- The alert options (ringtones, vibrate options, messaging alerts, etc.) aren't as fine-grained as I would like, but they'll do for now.

- I have not tried the internet stuff on anything but my home WiFi network, so I don't know about the EDGE network speed. Will try it out and about later.

- The Google Maps display shows the subway stops but not the full system map. Workaround: stick a JPG of the subway map in your iPhoto library and sync it up to the iPhone. Voila, zoomable, dragable NYC subway map.

- Wasn't it only a year or two ago that everyone was oohing and aahing over Jeff Han's touchscreen demos? And now there's a mass-produced device that does similar stuff that fits it your pocket. We're living in the future, folks...the iPhone is the hovercar we've all been waiting for.

Update:

- The iPhone is the first iPod with a speaker. Which means that in addition to using it as a speakerphone, you can listen to music, podcasts, YouTube videos, and movies without earphones. Which might seem a bit "eh", but won't once you have 15 people gathered around watching and listening to that funny bit from last night's Colbert Report. You know, the Social.

- I'm getting my mail right off my server with IMAP, so when it gets to the phone, it hasn't gone through Mail.app's junk filters...which basically means that mail on the iPhone is useless for me. In the near future, I'm going to set things up to route through GMail prior to the phone to near-eliminate the spam.

- Tried the EDGE network while I was out and about. Seemed pretty speedy to me, not noticeably slower than my WiFi at home...which may say more about Time Warner's cable modem speeds than EDGE.

- BTW, all of these first impressions are just that. You can't judge a device or an interface without using it day to day for awhile. I'm curious to see how I and others are still liking the phone in two weeks.

- Everytime I connect the iPhone to my computer, Aperture launches. Do not want.

I've been keeping up with the latestJun 22 2007

I've been keeping up with the latest iPhone news but I haven't been telling you about it...partially because my poor pal Merlin is about to pop an artery due to all the hype. Anyway, it's Friday and he's got all weekend to clean that up, so here we go. The big thing is a 20-minute guided tour of the device, wherein we learn that there's a neat swiping delete gesture, you can view Word docs, it's thumb-typeable, the earbuds wires house the world's smallest remote control, Google Maps have driving directions *and* traffic conditions, and there's an "airplane mode" that turns off all the wifi, cell, and Bluetooth signals for plane trips. It looks like the iPhone will be available online...here's the page at the Apple Store. What else? It plays YouTube videos. iPhone setup will be handled through iTunes: "To set up your iPhone, you'll need an account with Apple's iTunes Store."

I'm sure this functionality is coming, butJun 01 2007

I'm sure this functionality is coming, but when using the new Street View feature in combination with driving directions on Google Maps, I want a play button that drives me from the starting point to my destination, showing me the street-level view along the way.

New Google Maps feature: Street View. JustMay 29 2007

New Google Maps feature: Street View. Just place your little guy on a street on the map and up pops a 3-D panorama of what you'd see on the street. For instance, here's a view into oncoming traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Only major US cities are supported for now. I remember Amazon's A9 came out with something like this a couple of years ago, but Google's implementation of it is fantastic. (thx, mark)

Big Box Watch is a map thatApr 20 2007

Big Box Watch is a map that displays future big box store openings in the US. The site currently tracks Best Buy, Home Depot, Ikea, JCPenney, Kohl's, Lowe's, Target, and Wal-Mart.

Driving directions from New York City toMar 29 2007

Driving directions from New York City to Dublin, Ireland, courtesy of Google Maps. Step 23: "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean. 3462 mi." Not sure why you have to swim to France to get to Dublin, but ok. (thx, ayush)

New Google Maps featuresFeb 20 2007

Not sure when these features were added, but Google Maps now displays public transportation stops (NYC subway, the T in Boston, the L in Chicago) and building outlines for metropolitan areas. Here's a shot of the West Village in NYC:

Google Maps subway stops and buildings

Tiny but useful improvements. (thx, meg)

Google mixes their chocolate and peanut butterJan 29 2007

Google mixes their chocolate and peanut butter to map out locations found in books on Google Maps. Check out the maps for Around the World in Eighty Days or War and Peace (near the bottom of the page). More information about this project here.

Gothamist Maps uses Google Maps to pinpointOct 09 2006

Gothamist Maps uses Google Maps to pinpoint news alerts (fires, robberies, car accidents, etc.) on a map of NYC. Pretty cool.

EarthWallpapers is a collection of desktop wallpaperSep 13 2006

EarthWallpapers is a collection of desktop wallpaper taken from Google Maps satellite photos. This one's my new desktop.

Awesome Google Maps + NYC subway map combo. (via khoi)Aug 21 2006

Awesome Google Maps + NYC subway map combo. (via khoi)

Google Maps + Fast Food shows all theMay 16 2006

Google Maps + Fast Food shows all the the McDonald's, Burger Kings, Wendy's, and Jack in the Boxes in the US on a scrollable, zoomable map. Here's lower Manhattan + parts of Brooklyn and New Jersey. (Alternate plurals of Jack in the Box: Jacks in the Box or Jack in the Boxen?)

Interactive map (powered by, what else, GoogleMay 08 2006

Interactive map (powered by, what else, Google Maps) showing which area will be flooded when the sea level rises. Here's what parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens will look like if the sea level rises 7 meters.

ASCII Maps, a fully-functional version of GoogleMay 05 2006

ASCII Maps, a fully-functional version of Google Maps represented in ASCII. Doesn't work in Safari tho. (via infosthetics)

With their new finance offering, Google doesMar 21 2006

With their new finance offering, Google does for stock charts what they did for maps with Google Maps.

This blog cites a Target store advertisingJan 17 2006

This blog cites a Target store advertising on Google Maps (by painting their logo on the roof), but it's more likely that the bullseye is there for the benefit of airline passengers landing at nearby O'Hare (as this slightly wider view shows). (via bb)

Wow, an interactive transit map for NYC.Dec 13 2005

Wow, an interactive transit map for NYC. I haven't kept up with all the Google/Yahoo Maps subway mashups, but this one is pretty impressive. Click start and end points and it tells you which subway to board and how long the trip will take, including walking time.

New version of Yahoo Maps catches upNov 03 2005

New version of Yahoo Maps catches up to Google Maps and does them one or two better. Quite the homage, though. (via df)

VGMap is a library developed at EyebeamOct 11 2005

VGMap is a library developed at Eyebeam that lets you overlay arbitrary data and graphics onto Google Maps with Flash. Since you can dump anything you want into a Flash movie, you're free to annotate Google Maps with anything you want, from audio clips to banner ads of businesses. As an example, they've overlayed the NYC subway onto a map of Manhattan.

Cool Google Maps photo of the taxiSep 26 2005

Cool Google Maps photo of the taxi lot at JFK. (via new york hack)

Google Maps archaeologySep 19 2005

Local man uses Google Maps to find the undiscovered remains of a Roman villa near his town in Italy.

Google Moon: explore the Apollo landing sitesJul 20 2005

Google Moon: explore the Apollo landing sites in the Google Maps interface.

Another use for Google Maps: getting outJul 19 2005

Another use for Google Maps: getting out of traffic tickets in the courtroom. Many traffic cases are decided in favor of the state because of a lack of information on the part of the defendant...you'd be surprised at how good a chance you have of fighting a ticket if you show up armed with good information.

Google Maps hack: Iraq War casualty mapJun 30 2005

Google Maps hack: Iraq War casualty map. "This page shows the progession of US military casualties from the Iraq war. Each click displays 30 more casualties, starting from the beginning of the war. Each soldier is shown in at their home town. Click their icon for more details."

Google introduces an API for Google MapsJun 29 2005

Google introduces an API for Google Maps. And there was much rejoicing by the cartography hacking community.

Giant-Ass Image ViewerJun 20 2005

Giant-Ass Image Viewer. Python script (+JavaScript and CSS) for cutting up and viewing large images, a la Google Maps.

Google Sightseeing highlights interesting satellite photos taken from Google MapsJun 10 2005

Google Sightseeing highlights interesting satellite photos taken from Google Maps.

Ask and ye shall receive: Google MapsApr 22 2005

Ask and ye shall receive: Google Maps with the NYC subway stops on it. A little flaky in Safari, but works well in Firefox.

Google Maps launches in the UK withApr 19 2005

Google Maps launches in the UK with London Tube stations right on the map. Google, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please do the same for the NYC subway. Please?

What you'd see if you were onApr 07 2005

What you'd see if you were on the ground level of a Google Map.

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