Home Google Maps Finally Ready to Tell You “What’s Here” for Any Point on a Map… Almost

Google Maps Finally Ready to Tell You “What’s Here” for Any Point on a Map… Almost

On the Lat Long Blog, Google has announced a new Maps feature in the right-click menu for any point on a map.

Now, when a user clicks on “What’s here?” Google will return as specific a result as possible, be that an address, a “natural entity,” or a place name. When combined with the “At this address” feature, “What’s here?” can even be used to return a full list of businesses located at a given address. Hypothetically, that is. The list of conditions for this feature functioning as laid out in the announcement seems to be a bit long and convoluted.

The feature recognizes magnification as a factor; for example a “What’s here?” query for a body of water near Suffolk, Virginia, returns results of photos for Lake Meade and a link to Hampton Roads Executive Airport as well as a couple user-created maps for that general area.

As we zoomed in, specific addresses and place names started popping up on the left side of the screen:

As for finding businesses, however, we found the usefulness of the feature to be limited. Businesses at a specific (down to the street number) address could be found, but businesses across the street or one number over were not linked. And if a range of addresses was selected, we were out of luck unless the business was a significant place, such as a local landmark or historical site. Also, we would have like to see this option integrated better with options such as “Search nearby” to help users find businesses by vertical (restaurant, mechanic, etc.).

Another glitch is that the same rich data (photos, links) was shown for some map points that were a half mile apart or more, even when zoomed in relatively close.

And god help the user who clicks on an intersection. The feature didn’t seem to recognize intersections, only street addresses, so no business results could be found given “the corner of X and Y” as coordinates.

All in all, the “reverse geocoding” concept is a necessary and overdue function of Google Maps; however, we feel this feature still needs improvement if it’s going to be a handy tool for users with places to go and businesses to find.

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