Google Maps (for a time named Google Local) is a free web mapping service application and technology provided by Google that powers many map-based services including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder and embedded maps on third-party websites via the Google Maps API. It offers street maps, a route planner, and an urban business locator for numerous countries around the world.
A related product is Google Earth, a standalone program for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux which offers enhanced globe-viewing features.
Google Maps features a map that can be navigated by dragging the mouse, or using the mouse wheel to zoom in (mouse wheel up) or out (mouse wheel down) to show detailed street information. Users may enter an address, intersection or general area to quickly find it on the map.
Search results can be restricted to a certain area, thanks to Google Local. For example, someone can enter a query such as “Waffles in Ottawa” to find restaurants serving waffles near the city. This can be used to find a wide variety of businesses, such as theatres, restaurants and hotels.
Like many other map services, Google Maps allows for the creation of driving directions. It gives the user a step-by-step list of how to get to their destination, along with an estimate of the time required to reach it and the distance between the two locations. Since July 2007, it has been possible to drag a point on the route to another location, adding a waypoint, and instantly showing the revised route and length while dragging.
Google Maps offers five viewing modes by default: Map (topographic and street map), Satellite (satellite and high-resolution aerial photographs), “Terrain” (geographic features in high relief with street overlay), Street View, this feature was introduced on May 30, 2007. (ground level 360 degree view of certain streets), and Traffic’ (traffic maps).
The “link to this page” link on each Google Maps map targets a URL which can be used to find the location on the map at a later time. The latitude and longitude can be used as input to NASA World Wind or TerraServer-USA, which in some cases have higher-resolution imagery.
[via wikipedia ]