Map mashup developers take note. Google has just announced that it has made several changes to the Google Maps base map, which now includes several new base layers as well as well as more detailed information.
According to the Google Lat Long Blog, Google has worked directly with various data providers to expand and enhance the base map data used in Google Maps:
Today you may notice that the United States looks a bit different in Google Maps -- all of that new green park land was probably a giveaway. That's because we've worked directly with a wide range of authoritative information sources to create a new base map dataset. In our experience, these organizations that create the data do the best job of keeping it accurate and up-to-date. For example, in the US there are a number of publicly accessible geospatial datasets created by the government for the Census, land surveying, and transportation. These datasets provide information on everything from road networks and water bodies to toll roads and bridges. By integrating this information, and working with specialized data sources like the USDA Forest Service's Forest Boundaries and the US Geological Survey's National Hydrography Dataset, we've been able to expand and improve features in our maps like parks and water bodies.
Taking a look at the new base map data, several new data sets are discernible, including parcels (in major metropolitan regions):
And detailed campus maps, including building footprints:
Apparently Google's Geo Team also utilized aerial imagery and Street View data to verify and correct road information:
Satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery also helped. With overhead imagery, we could zoom in on roadway details to figure out details like the size of the road. Our Street View imagery, which you know as a tool to help you explore new places, turns out to be very helpful to understand road restrictions and confirm street data by reading street signs.
Trails and paths are also included in the new base map. Though subtly stated, perhaps one of the more exciting features that's in the works is the ability to get biking directions based on this new data.
Lastly, there is a new "Report a Problem" link on the bottom right of Google Maps, which is aimed at soliciting more feedback from users with regard to data quality. This new base map certainly adds a new level of appeal and one more compelling reason for mashup developers to take a serious look at the Google Maps API (our Google Maps API Profile), which continues to reign as the most popular API in our API Directory. Happy map mashing!