"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005
  Google Maps
Google has added a interesting twist to it's Maps service - you can now view the corresponding satellite image of the map. Click here to see the map of Sacramento State University, where I got my BS in Computer Science, and then click here to see the satellite image that corresponds to the map (you may need to increase the zoom-in factor on the satellite image by a factor of two to see the university).

Jason Kottke has an interesting post on this subject, and on the surrounding "buzz":
The ability to view satellite images online has been around for years in the form of Microsoft's Terraserver (and also on a mapping site that I can't locate right now...I swear Mapquest let you switch back and forth between the two views, but I can't find it), so this really isn't anything new. Terraserver lets you zoom in/out, move around the map, and view other versions of the map (they have a topological version), and I know that many of the people who are so excited about Google Maps are familar with it. So why is everyone so excited about it?

Part of it is Google's involvement...they draw a crowd of attention anytime they do anything these days. But it also has a lot to do with someone I wrote about a couple of years ago: it's the user experience, stupid:

Robert Morris from IBM argued last year at Etech 2002 that -- and I'm paraphrasing from memory here -- most significant advances in software are actually advances in user experience, not in technology. Mosaic was not an advancement in technology over TBL's original browser. Blogger is a highly-specialized FTP client. IM is IRC++ (or IRC for Dummies, depending on your POV). The advantages that these applications offered people were user experience-oriented, not technology-oriented.


The satellite feature on Google is no exception. They took something that's been around for years, made it way easier to use (reposition & zoom maps without reloading, pinpoint addresses and routes onto the satellite imagery, toggle between sat and road maps, map size automatically scales to the browser window, etc.), and suddenly this old thing is much more useful and fun to play around with. Ajax is the underlying technology (which isn't new either) for many of the notable Google Maps features, but how Google used it to make a useful user experience is the real story here.


Update: Gus Van Horn seems to have beaten me to posting on this topic. I started this entry at the first commercial for the hit television show Lost, at about 8:05pm, but only finished after the show, about 9:30pm.

Update II: Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution provides directions to his office.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 8:05 PM


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