Posted June 22, 2009 3:00 pm by with 6 comments

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Just the other day, I was browsing through Google Maps and I saw what is properly classed as a “big ol’ building.” Aerial shots and even Street View couldn’t tell me what said building was, and I wished that Google could just check the repository of the Internet tell me what that building was.

Well, it looks like my wish really is Google’s command! Google Maps has added a new feature called “What’s here?” Right-click on the USO (unidentified stationary object 😉 ) and you have the option of asking “What’s here?”:
whats here

In most of the fairly random places I asked about, the answer seemed to be “We dunno . . . um, an address?”:
whats here we dunno

However, shopping centers and office parks were more helpful:
whats here shopping
What, no shop listing?

whats here office park
That’s better. Note that Google’s already integrated the “at this address” feature.

Physical features also returned some good results. Like the shopping center above, this lake returned user-generated content, such as the pictures that Google layers on its maps:
whats here phys

Interestingly, “What’s here?” takes into account how close you are to the object (in your map view):

For example, if you’re zoomed in closely on Manhattan, you can get the full address of a point by clicking on “What’s here?”. . . .

If you’re a bit more zoomed out, you can get larger features, such as the names of the different Islands in the Galapagos Archielago – Isla Fernandina, Isla Isabela, Isla Marchena, Isla Guy Fawkes, and so on.

In my limited testing, though, sometimes Google could find a business by name, but couldn’t seem to find it for the “What’s here?” listings, no matter where on the block I tried. (And the “big ol’ building”? Google didn’t know.)

This “reverse geocoding” capability has been available in the Maps API for a few months. what do you think—is this a useful tool or just another fun bell & whistle?

  • Righto! nowadays you are thinking about one thing, “ummmm what if…” and BINGO! the nest day you get to see the product…lolzz

    write a writing’s last blog post..Why did Eric Clapton Write “Tears in Heaven”?

  • Google is slowly and slowly becoming more invasive on peoples lives. I don’t really see the point in people also being able to say what is there for residential housing because this just opens up more cases of harassment and libel.

  • I’m pretty sure you can’t win a lawsuit for harassment or libel by suing over information available in any phone book. But as I mentioned in the article, Google doesn’t display that info in “What’s here?”—it just tells you a range of street addresses (although most phone book information is searchable in the main Google database).

  • I think it’s the precursor to a really cool technology, which would be clicking on a building on Google maps and having the business name and address display. That would be worth some big kudos in my opinion.

    jlbraaten’s last blog post..3 Steps to Find Your Social Media Tools and Purpose

  • @jlbraaten—That sounds to me like basically what this is. Do you meant that we wouldn’t have to right click? I’m kind of partial to the right click. There are established functions for single and double clicks in Google Maps. I don’t people changing my click functions and I don’t want every building address/name to pop up every time I mouse over or click in the area.

  • The problem I was referring to was the ability to game the local search for what would appear on the “What Is Here”. I know for many large office buildings in my city they have around 15 companies who are spamming and saying they are located there but are not really. I am not saying anyone would win a lawsuit I am just saying from a PR standpoint people have already wanted their homes removed in the masses from street view and if people game the system for residential housing it is just another thing that Google will have to deal with in an editorial process.