Labs for Google Maps: The Place to Find New Features
Article by George Norman
On 17 Feb 2010
You are undoubtedly familiar with Gmail Labs, the place where Google software developers post experiments they worked on during their 20% time (the one day per week when they are allowed to work on something that is not in the job description). Gmail Labs is where you can find all sorts of useful features – as long as you’re willing to take the risk that the may “change, break or disappear at any time.”

Google has decided to give its web mapping service application Google Maps a Labs feature as well. Labs in Google Maps is pretty much identical to Labs in Gmail. It is the place to go when you want to turn on experimental features that are not yet ready for the primetime, features that will enhance the way you use Google Maps.

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“We are pleased to announce the launch of Maps Labs, a set of opt-in features that add useful functionality to Google Maps. Labs allow us to quickly experiment with new Google Maps features, add new ways of interacting with the map, or just try out something wacky. If a Lab proves popular it may become a standard feature of Google Maps in future,” announced Product Manager with Google Maps, Thor Mitchell.

To turn on a Labs feature, you need only click the green conical flask icon from the top right hand corner of the screen. A list of Google Maps Labs experiments will show up -> select one you would like to turn on -> click Enable -> save changes. Experiments in Labs are, well, experimental. If something were to go wrong, you can disable all Labs by clicking this link http://maps.google.com/maps?ftr=0.

“You can zoom in to a particular location just by dragging a box around it using the new Drag 'n' Zoom control. You can browse nearby businesses with the What's Around Here button and test your world geography with our Where in the World game. Or in case you still yearn for the days when you could turn paper maps upside down we even have Rotatable Maps. We chose not to offer a lab that replicates the experience of struggling to fold a map back up though. If you really miss that, we can't help you,” added Thor Mitchell.



Tags: Google, Google Maps, Labs
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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