Home Google Maps Gets A Weather Layer

Google Maps Gets A Weather Layer

Google just introduced a weather layer to Google Maps, and WunderMap better watch out. It’s a simple overlay of local weather icons with temperatures, and clicking them pops up more information including humidity, wind speed and a forecast. Google is not new to the weather game; Google Earth has been displaying weather information since 2007, adding real-time weather and animations last year. But the addition of this layer to Maps means that users planning an outing or a trip can do it all from one free, Google-powered, ad-supported place.

The data come from Weather.com, although Google’s blog post mistakenly says it’s all from the U.S. Naval Research Lab, which also provides some of the data for Google Earth’s “Clouds” layer (look at the bottom left of the screenshots). The Weather Channel used to offer a Google Maps mapplet, but that’s unnecessary now. Google Maps has no radar view or interactive components, so The Weather Channel still has something unique to offer on its own site, but whenever Google gets into a new vertical, be it weather, shopping or email, competitors should proceed with caution.

It’s not nice to call Web services dead before they actually go offline, but Weather Underground’s WunderMap service is in a pickle now. WunderMap does offer richer content, including radar overlays, webcams, dedicated services for hurricanes, fires and tornadoes, and more. But it could have a traffic problem. WunderMap is currently search result number one for “google maps weather,” followed by the WunderMap widget for the iGoogle home page and then by an old feature suggestion in the Google Maps help forum requesting weather. Presumably, this will be changing shortly (organically, of course), although WU director of marketing Toby Skinner chimes in to contend that search results like this only account for 0.1% of its traffic. Even so, it remains to be seen how Google will rearrange things around this new product.

As far as iGoogle widgets (if people still use those) and other widget weather apps go, there’s still something to be said for having local weather placed prominently as part of one’s normal routine. This layer hasn’t gone mobile yet, but assuming it will, that could shake up the market for mobile weather apps. Still, there’s no question that Google Maps is convenient. It’s one of those technologies that would blow the minds of the humans of the past. With the addition of weather, planning a day trip or a long journey using nothing but Google Maps just got easier.

What do you use to check the weather? Let us know in the comments.

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