Today Google made an announcement that could have profound implications for several businesses I can think of. That announcement: a “Businesses” layer has been added to both Google Earth for the iPhone and the desktop version via the “Geographic Web” folder. I think it’ll be a much more useful feature on the iPhone for the obvious reason that a desktop isn’t quite as mobile, even in the case of a laptop.
When you open Google Earth now on you’re iPhone you’ll easily find the Businesses layer which (you guessed it) overlays local businesses on top of the usual satellite imagery. As you zoom in you’ll see more businesses listed.
This makes me wonder how much Google will infringe on other business listing-related and business review websites like Yelp and Citysearch in the future. Such businesses should definitely find a way to respond to this.
As an aside, I want to mention that Disney has added its Paris theme park to Google Earth. And I’m not just talking a simple business listing here, but the full 3D rendition, similar to what it did last year with its Orlando park (they also have a location-based iPhone app). You can find it in it in the Gallery folder of Google Earth 5.0.
Finally, the Google Maps team announced the addition of 64 new countries to its Google Map Maker program, which encourages local citizens to contribute mapping data in underdeveloped countries. The new countries include:
American Samoa, Anguilla, Armenia, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Comoros, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Guinea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Malawi, Martinique, Mauritania, Mongolia, Montserrat, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Pakistan, Reunion, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Togo, Tokelau, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Wallis and Futuna, Zambia.
I’m not sure how successful Map Maker has been compared to the Open Street Map project. I know the latter has had great success teaming up with non-profits and non-governmental organizations. Because Open Street Map is an open source project it doesn’t cost money to use its map data, an important consideration for non-profits. In return non-profit organizations often return rich map data from developing countries. I don’t think I’ve seen this with Google Maps but I could be wrong here.