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Google Maps turns 15 – big update for popular mapping app

Google has just released a sizable update to its best-in-class Maps app as it celebrates fifteen years since the beginning of its quest to “map the world.”

Google Maps

A lot has changed since Google Maps first launched in 2005 with a desktop-only web interface. What began as a simple A-to-B directions service has since evolved into a gargantuan repository of location data, including helpful details for “around 200 million” places worldwide. These days users are as likely to check into Google Maps for restaurant reviews and must-see tourist spots as they are for straightforward driving directions, and this latest update takes things even further in that direction.

This update is available around the world, and if you have automatic updates switched on you might already have it – you can tell by the app’s new logo, a multicolored map pin on a white background. Google says the new icon “represents the shift we’ve made from getting you to your destination to also helping you discover new places and experiences.”

The big interface change that shifts focus in the app comes in the form of a new tab bar, separating out five key aspects of the Google Maps experience: Explore, Commute, Saved, Contribute, and Updates. (In some regions, we’re seeing those last three replaced with a single For You tab instead.)

The rest of the app should still feel familiar, with popular features like Location Sharing and Offline Maps easily accessible from the menu in the top left. It’s clear Google wants to engage with user contributions – which it relies on for most of its data – more than ever, to fuel the easy discovery of new places.

Google also says there is a bunch of new capabilities to make planning journeys on public transit a lot better, and there are some exciting AR-driven directions coming to its Live View later this year.