You may have noticed recently that the Google Maps app on your smartphone or tablet has changed. Gone is the little snippet of a map that we had all become so used to, and in its place the new colourful “map pin” that aligns to the other Google apps such as Home, Chrome, and the main Google app.

Something you may not have noticed was that on Friday February 8th 2020, Google Maps celebrated its 15th birthday.

During the week we were guests of Google and had a very intimate audience with Noel Gordon – one of the four inventors of Google Maps, who still today works for Google in Sydney.

Noel Gordon, one of four Google Maps inventors. (Photographer: Sam Venn)

As Noel and other Google executives spoke to us of the past, present, and future of Google Maps, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a significant impact the technology that was invented right here in Sydney has had on the lives of everyone who has ever used the internet.

In order to make Google Maps work on the internet (a request from Google co-founder Sergey Brin), the Maps team had to invent new web-technologies to ensure a really nice user experience.

If you’ve ever used a banking website or looked at sports scores online or had a flutter on the Melbourne Cup – you have more than likely used a technology called AJAX (short for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML).

AJAX was invented by the Google Maps founders to achieve a number of challenges that were defined on this whiteboard scribble below back in 2005 following a meeting with the founders of Google.

Wind the clock forward 15 years and Google Maps is now one of the most used platforms on the internet today with over 1 billion people using it every month.

As we all know and appreciate, the launch of Google Maps was just the beginning. In the past 15 years there have been an incredible number of enhancements that have only made discovering and learning about the world we live in even more accessible.

2005Google Maps launched
2007Launch of Street View
2011Launch of Public Transport Information
2013Voice Navigation
2019Launch of Live View

As for the future of Google Maps, there are a number of areas where the product will continue to evolve and everyone of us can play a part.

Local Guides is the user-generated-content aspect of Google Maps that is much larger than most of us probably realise. Over 20M contributions are made to Local Guides every day! This could be anything from a rating, to a review, to a photo or a tip.

Australian Penny Christie (Level 8) is one of the top Local Guides with over 10,000 photos published and an attendee at Connect Live and a member of the One Accessibility initiative. It really is amazing to think how far we have come in 15 years.

Google Maps has also broken itself down into five main areas of utility; Maps, Commute, Saved, Contribute, and Updates – the last two related to Local Guides.

Look out for the updated Google Maps app on your device now and wish Google Maps a very happy 15th birthday!

Google Maps Highlights

  • Since Google Maps started in 2005 it has mapped over 220 countries and put business information, ratings and reviews and more from 150 million businesses and places on the map.
  • More than 1 billion people use Google Maps every month.
  • Google Maps provides driving directions in 240+ countries spanning 55+ million kilometres of road – or in other words, 87+ trips to the moon.
  • On average, more than a billion kilometres per day are driven daily with Google Maps.