Google Maps Celebrates 15th Birthday with New Customization Features

Google MapsTrack this API recently celebrated its 15th birthday. As part of that celebration, the Maps team announced a number of new beta features and a roadmap for making the next 15 years even more powerful than the first. Of all the features Google is adding to Google Maps, a single word seems to sum them all up: customization.

Google Maps customization has typically occurred on the client-side JSON. Those customizations were then sent to the service with map requests. This caused a number of limitations, including URL character limits. Google is moving customization to the cloud-side which will provide a number of benefits. First, it gives map designers more options. Second, it creates more flexibility for pushing out changes across maps. Finally, with styling on the server-side, non-coders can no participate in the map styling process.

Next, Google is introducing Vector Maps to the JavaScript API. Vector maps are rendered on the client-side, unlike raster tilemaps. The client-side rendering is handled through WebGL, which utilizes the user device's GPU. This enables smoother, crisper maps tiles that will improve the map look during panning and zooming. Vector Maps are now supported on JavaScript, Android, and iOS, so Google is adding it to all three platforms.

Finally, Google is adding more customization to points of interest features. When points of interest were originally rolled out across the various map features, everything was labeled "business." Now, Google is using five sub-categories: lodging, shopping, food & drink, car rental, and gas stations. This will allow map users to customize which type of businesses are used in their maps. Map designers will also be able to decide how many points of interest are included on their maps, although default settings will include the number that Google has determined is the average ideal as gained through years of testing.

Check out all-new features and customization abilities in the docs (AndroidiOSJavascript). For the new, server-side features, they can be found in the ‘Map Management’ and ‘Map Styles’ tabs of the Cloud Console. To see more on the progress of Google Maps over the years, and where it's headed next, visit Google's Mapping the Future site.

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