The Google Maps feature has been gaining more and more prominence as the search giant rumbles down the road of delivering more personalized results. The trend is likely to continue, however, to understand where Google Maps is headed, it would be useful to understand the feature’s history. Who better to turn to than Bill Slawski, the preeminent authority on search patents, as well as author of SEO by the Sea? The following is what Bill called a “rough” timeline or history of Google Maps.
September 22, 2003
Google filed a patent on Address geocoding.
Google Local came out in April, 2004
Google purchased Where 2 Technologies in October 2004, and hired members of the Australian company, many of who have worked on Maps for Google since. A few of Google’s 30+ patent and patent applications on maps and local search bear the names of at least one of the brothers who started Where 2 technologies. Most, but not all of these focus upon mapping, or driving directions, and not the results of local searches. Here are a lot of those, published at some point since Where 2 Technologies came along:
- 20070016368 – Generating Human-Centric Directions in Mapping Systems
- 20060206264 – Combined map scale and measuring tool
- 20060139375 – Secondary map in digital mapping system
- 20060064241 – Method and apparatus for customizing travel directions
- 20050288859 – Visually-oriented driving directions in digital mapping system
- 20050270311 – Digital mapping system
- 20050270305 – Generating, storing, and displaying graphics using sub-pixel bitmaps
- 20050270299 – Generating and serving tiles in a digital mapping system
- 20050182770 – Assigning geographic location identifiers to web pages
- 20050119824 – System for automatically integrating a digital map system
One or two of those have been granted within the past few months.
March 17, 2005
Google Local Business Center came out
Google added Satellite Images to Maps, shortly after they purchased Keyhole, Inc., which you may know better from Google Earth. At this time, Google Local and Google Maps were still separate applications. You would search Local for local business information, and Maps for locations and to get directions.
October 6, 2005
Google Maps and Google Local were merged together.
November 7, 2005
Google Local for Mobile was released.
March 31, 2006
Google added advertising to the merged Local/Maps
Aug 15, 2006
Google added coupons to Local Search
April 21, 2006
After the merger of Local and Maps, the application was referred to as Google Local. People liked the Maps name more, and Google changed it to Google Maps. The person making the announcement was Thai Tran, Product Manager, Google Maps and Local Search, who had formerly worked on maps with Yahoo!
Daniel Egnor joined Google in 2003, and at some point started working on maps. He was the tech lead until mid-2005, and now, as far as I know, works on Web ranking algorithms. His name is on a number of the patent applications that came out mostly in mid 2006 on local search algorithms (along with other folks from Google).
- 20060271531 – Scoring local search results based on location prominence
- 20060200478 – Generating structured information
- 20060149800 – Authoritative document identification
- 20060149775 – Document segmentation based on visual gaps
- 20060149774 – Indexing documents according to geographical relevance
- 20060149742 – Classification of ambiguous geographic references
- 20060149734 – Location extraction
- 20050065916 – Methods and systems for improving a search ranking using location awareness
There are plenty more people involved, milestones, and pieces of the puzzle that may have come from other places (live traffic information from the Zipdash acquisition, for instance). But this is some of it.
I’ve got to say, if Bill considers this a “rough” version, it’s no wonder that his blog provides such incredible value in each and every post. If you’ve not already subscribed, you’re really missing out. Thanks again Bill!