Posted July 22, 2008 5:38 pm by with 13 comments

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Wow. I feel like Google really hears me. First, they make Gmail’s contact system less invasive, and now they add walking directions to Google Maps!

google maps walking directions beta

I do a small dance of happiness!

Now, I know there are those of you wondering why this even matters, what difference walking directions makes. Or, as one commenter put it:

Walking directions? Whatever happened to just showing up, facing your body in the direction you wanted to go, and walking?

Of course, the simple answer to the smart alecky question is “I tried that, but I kept walking into things—buildings, oncoming traffic . . . rivers” (return snark for snark is a Biblical injunction, isn’t it?).

The Google Maps blog post announcing the addition gives a good explanation (also with pictures), but here’s mine for an unfamiliar city (New York) for a single turn:
driving around the corner in new york with Google Maps
walking around the corner with Google Maps
Granted, yes, you should be able to figure out how to walk around the corner without the help of Google Maps (driving in a city full of one-way streets, though . . . that’s another story).

But when mapping programs don’t offer pedestrians and tourists walking directions, the misadventures can be myriad—not the least of which is potentially walking a lot further than necessary because of said one-way streets. Odds are good that there are more than one corner between you and your destination, and do you want to walk six times the necessary distance to get there?

I’m sure, however, that most people have no need to be convinced of the usefulness of walking directions. Instead, they’re wondering what took Google so long, especially given that other mapping programs, including Microsoft and, until recently, Ask, have had them for ages. Me too.