Place Pages for Google Maps could be great for small businesses

golden-gate-bridgeGoogle has just released Place Pages for Google Maps, and the potential impact on small businesses is quite large.

According to Google, a “Place Page” is:

a webpage for every place in the world, organizing all the relevant information about it. By every place, we really mean *every* place — there are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities all over the world.

With so many small businesses still lacking a website (around 44%), this gives them a great way to help control their reputation on Google.  The URLs are built to be very friendly, and small businesses can edit the pages to make sure they’re completely up to date.

While this certainly won’t be better than having your own site, it’s another great way for small businesses to own more of the search results for their name.  It’s got some bugs to work out (mis-matched items), but all in all it should be a great enhancement to the search results.

Major imagery update for Google Earth

Details are still coming in, but there’s been a significant imagery update for Google Earth.  The Google LatLong Blog has their usual quiz, and the Google Earth Blog is filling in the details.

So far, updated areas include Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Ukraine and various parts of the United States.  Stay updated to the GEB post for the latest.

Google Earth just got faster: Version 5.1 released

Google has just released Google Earth version 5.1.  According to the LatLong blog, the focus of this update was speed.

According to Google:

We’ve made a lot of adjustments under the hood, like improving memory utilization so we can show more buildings, layers, and user content. We improved our shaders (that’s graphics-speak for small programs that run inside your graphics processor) to make the atmosphere draw faster. We also worked to reduce stuttering (known as frame drops) to provide an even smoother experience as you fly around the globe. When we draw imagery, we now use compression technology to use less memory and graphics resources. We know that waiting for a program to start-up can be really frustrating, so we improved our start-up time by 25%. In our Google Earth API (which allows developers to include Google Earth right in their websites), we have made API calls significantly faster, which means that our developers can now do even more.

You can download version 5.1 here.  In addition, the Windows version of 5.1 automatically loads the browser plug-in for those users, which should signifianctly increase the number of users that have the plug-in installed.

Japanese StreetView is facing a variety of complaints

japan-streetviewThe Japanese version of Google StreetView is facing an increasingly higher number of complaints, about a variety of topics.  Along with the usual complaints (faces, license plates), there is the issue of people using the images on secondary sites for the purposes of discrimination and bullying.

To help combat this, Google has set up a new system that makes it easier for users to report problems.  They even allow users to report problems with secondary sites, which Google will then deal with (ask for removal, legal action, etc).

The concern now is that this action might not be enough.  I guess only time will tell.

College Football, Monopoly and Towson University

A handful of cool things today:

college-football

College Football Stadiums: The Google LatLong blog has posted a KML that flies you to all of the NCAA football stadiums — 246 in all!  You can read about the file on their site, or download the KML here.  I did something similar on EarthSwoop last year and built a “swo0p” for all of the stadiums in each major conference:  ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 10 and SEC.  The majority of them are rendered in 3D and look pretty sweet.

monopoly

Google Maps Monopoly: Starting on September 9, Hasbro is launching a giant Google Maps-based game of Monopoly.  The folks at Wired got a sneak peek of the game, and they’re cautiously optimistic.  The rules don’t seem to explain what the goal is (buy stuff near you, and maybe sell it later?), but the concept has potential.

towson-university

Map of Towson University: Towson University has built a slick custom Google Map of their campus, thanks to their Geospatial Research and Education Lab.  There are shaded polygons of each building, which click to reveal more information/links about that building.  You can select building types (Academic, Dining, etc), parking areas, and other transportation information.  It’s very well done.  (via Google Maps Mania)

Two new 3D cities added to Google Earth

Google has just released two new 3D cities into Google Earth — Dublin, Ireland and Cardiff, Wales.

Make sure your “3D Buildings” layer is turned on inside of Google Earth, then fly over and check them out.  Below is a short video showing them off.  They look great!