Friday, February 11, 2005

On Tuesday, Google launched a compliment to its Local Search, Google Maps. With this you can look up a map, get driving driving directions, and find area businesses and local listings. That's what it has in common with the other guys.

Beyond that, however, is the unique Google touch for implementation. For starters, no matter how big your screen, • the map fills the page. Next, it actually has more of the map loaded on the page so that when you • drag the map, you can immediately see what's around the visible area.

The integration with Local is pretty handy as well. Any search you would do on Local you can do here. It's not hard to find a Radio Shack in Washington, DC. Although it doesn't know if all those stores are still open (they're not—F and H are closed and G isn't in Southeast where it really is).

However, Google stumbles onto a way to do Local search that is really profound, and they don't even say anything about it! You can do a local search and not even know where you're searching. Yep, with no zip code, city or state, you can search small town America with Google Maps. Basically, zoom/scroll the map to where you want to search, type in a local business type listing request, and it does it on the fly.

It sorta reminds me of using my GPS to navigate and having no idea where I am or how I got there. Ironic, huh? Now if we could just get Google or one of these guys to list the lat/lon for a map or local listing location. I mean really, you'd think Google would want to be the place for GPS users to go for information.

Lastly, for those seasoned users who have been subjected to poor Web programming and usability that requires them to put a name in one box, an address in another, and a city, state or zip somewhere else, the simplicity of Google's single box for any of these searches may strip some folks' gears. Let's just say we can all be thankful that Google has a healthy understanding of the wonderful art of parsing!

So, if Maps is better for local search than Local, why have Local at all?

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