Google Maps turns 15, introduces five new customization features

With this launch, one can create and manage map styles via the Google Cloud Console. This evolution brings three important benefits: more customization, easier management, and faster deployment of tests and new features. 

Google Maps turns 15, introduces five new customization features
Google Maps turns 15, introduces five new customization features

Google Maps turns 15, introduces five new customization features

On its 15th anniversary, Google is rolling out five new Maps customization features that make it easier than ever to create deeply customized maps, and a new way to more frictionlessly apply these and future customizations. These new features are:

Maps customization, styling, and management in the cloud 

With this launch, one can create and manage map styles via the Google Cloud Console. This evolution brings three important benefits: more customization, easier management, and faster deployment of tests and new features. 

This move to cloud-based Maps styling increases the number of customizations that can be done on a map to over 250 for most browsers. 

Moving Maps customization into the cloud enables more members of your team to update your maps, including those who don’t code.

Your user experience team can quickly adopt new customization features or your marketing team can update map styles to mirror a holiday campaign–all without touching a line of code. Once published, a new map style will update in near real-time across all platforms and devices, ensuring a cohesive customer experience. 

Until now, Maps customization has been handled via client-side JSON which was sent to the server with map requests. This design meant the amount of customization that could be done was capped by URL character limits.

We’ve heard from our customers–and experienced ourselves–how quickly that limit can be hit when styling a map. This move to cloud-based Maps styling increases the number of customizations that can be done on a map to over 250 for most browsers. 

A more elegant Maps experience with Vector Maps

Google is bringing Vector Maps to its JavaScript API. Unlike raster tile maps which are composed of a set of images, vector maps are rendered on the client side.

This is done using WebGL, a web technology that takes advantage of the GPU on the user’s device to draw smoother, crisper map tiles that look great during user interactions like panning and zooming.

With Vector Maps now supported on JavaScript as well as Android and iOS, the mapping giant is bringing Marker Collision Management to all three platforms. Developers can now determine which markers take priority over, and thus suppress, basemap information.

Markers no longer “collide” or compete with nearby labels and other map information. This allows much more information to be displayed on the map—like richer POIs or more labels—without making the map cluttered and unreadable. 

Increased control over POIs displayed on your maps

With Business POI filtering Google is introducing five sub-categories: lodging, shopping, food & drink, car rental, and gas stations. Now you have the ability to decide which types of businesses are shown on your map, rather than having to make a broad decision on showing all businesses or no businesses.

This means a retailer can display nearby restaurants or gas stations to help customers plan their outing, but filter out shopping POIs to avoid displaying competitive locations.

Likewise, a hotel chain can choose to display food & drink and shopping POIs on its search map and filter out the locations of lodging competitors.

POI Density Control allows you to increase or decrease the number of POIs displayed on your map, per POI category–so you can dial up the categories most important to your customers. So that hotel chain we just mentioned could show even more nearby restaurants, attractions, and shopping to potential customers. 

When you combine Marker Collision Management, Business POI Filtering, and POI Density Control you now have the ability to create a fundamentally more useful and visually distinctive map that provides real value to your users. 

Getting started

Google is releasing all of these new Maps customization features in beta and will roll out to new and existing Google Maps Platform customers over the coming weeks.

Once they’re available to your project, you’ll see new ‘Map Management’ and ‘Map Styles’ tabs in the Google Maps Platform section of the Cloud Console. 

For technical details on customizing your map implementations, visit our documentation (AndroidiOSJavascript).

These new features represent a whole new way of creating and managing custom maps by letting you expand map styling to more members of your team, while streamlining the process of publishing and updating.

No matter who’s styling maps on your team, what density you choose, or types of POIs you display–we can’t wait to see what you build.