Disadvantages & Advantages of Using Google Maps Website
By Laurel Storm
Although traditional paper maps are still widely used, online mapping services such as the Google Maps website are gaining increasing popularity due to the large amounts of useful information they offer alongside a traditional map. While the advantages of Google Maps are numerous, the website also has a number of downsides that may limit its usefulness.
The Google Maps website offers several map views that you can switch between depending on your needs. In addition to switching from a normal map to satellite imagery, you can overlay terrain information on the normal map. You can also use the Street View feature to get a panoramic view of the buildings and areas surrounding a particular street, which are put together from photographs taken at street level by specially equipped cars.
Enter two or more distinct locations into the Google Maps website to get driving, walking and cycling directions for the most practical routes. Depending on the location you are interested in, public transport directions also may be available. If several possible routes exist, you will see a summary of each with a rough estimate of the time that each route would take.
Using Google Maps, you can create a custom map for any location, adding place marks, lines and shapes to it, and save it to your Google account. You can load the saved map at any time, print it out for your reference and share a link to it with others. This makes the Google Maps website a useful tool to plan a holiday or a visit to a new city.
Depending on the location you are interested in, Google Maps can provide additional information you might find useful, such as current traffic load, road work and road closures, photos of areas and landmarks, nearby webcams, and weather forecasts. If you search for the location of a business, Google Maps will provide you with a general rating and reviews of that business and a link to the company's website, if one exists.
Information provided by the Google Maps website may be inaccurate or out of date. Walking and cycling directions, in particular, may suggest routes that are missing sidewalks, pedestrian paths or cycling paths. The suggested driving routes also may not be the most efficient ones available, and may not account for any specific requirements you may have, such as avoiding low clearance bridges and overpasses. Relying on Google Maps alone for any additional information you may need, such as public transit timetables, the location or opening hours of a business, road closures or traffic load, may lead to wasted time and frustration.
The Google Maps website relies on downloading and displaying large images. Because of this, it may load slowly or not at all if you have a connection that is limited in speed. Similarly, the website may function poorly or not at all if viewed on a browser that is not fully updated or if Java is not updated.
The images used on the Google Maps website could occasionally contain inappropriate content. For example, photographs taken for the Street View feature may show people in compromising positions that would not be appropriate for the general public. The pictures could also contain disturbing scenes such as car crashes. Satellite imagery taken at the wrong moment may display inappropriate words or drawings as a result of short-lived pranks. Google does, however, remove or replace these images when informed about them.
Depending on the country and location you are interested in, you may find that entire buildings are blurred out in Street View. This is done on request because of privacy concerns, but this also severely limits the usefulness of the feature. Similarly, in the satellite view, certain areas may be displayed using older imagery or may be blurred out altogether.
Laurel Storm has been writing since 2001, and helping people with technology for far longer than that. Some of her articles have been published in "Messaggero dei Ragazzi", an Italian magazine for teenagers. She holds a Master of Arts in writing for television and new media from the University of Turin.