Some days ago Google Maps added a new feature that allows users to create lists of favorite locations and share them with others as well as follow the lists of your friends. You can also share your hot spots with your friends and family via social networks, text, email and messaging apps like Whatsapp. Does this seem familiar? Sharing (and caring) is it what we do in Facebook or Twitter? Is Google Maps becoming another social network?

 

Google Maps presents it as an easy way to share your favorite places with friends and family. “Once you send a link to your out-of-towners, they can tap “Follow” to pull up the list from Your Places whenever they need it”. What is more the lists you create or follow are viewable on mobile and desktop and even offline. “Next time you’re on a trip, download offline maps of the area in advance and you’ll be able to see all the places you’ve added to lists on the map itself.”

 


Previously, users could only star their favorite location but they couldn’t share this information with others. As is in most cases new features bring along new levels of data collection. By just “staring” a location on the map, data collection was realised on the user level without been able to take them outside the box. This new feature takes data collection a step further (and makes it much easier). Sharing makes data collection and correlation more direct and it gets more people involved. One could say that data are set free and not caged in the account of the user. “Simply open the Google Maps app and find that BBQ spot you’ve been wanting to try. Tapping on the place name and then the “Save” icon adds the place to one of several pre-set lists like “Want to Go” or “Favorites.”

 

Data collection is used to improve the service but most importantly data is valuable to advertisers. Users’ preferences and interests could be used to target potential customers more effectively. So, let’s say that you are creating a list of the Indian restaurants you want to go and eat and you share it with your friends and family. Now Google could somehow inform the Indian restaurant not included in your list about your intention of going out to eat Indian food. However, according to Google spokeswoman Elizabeth Davidoff who talked to npr.org “At this time, the lists users create are not used for advertising purposes.” But who knows what will happen in the future I add. If this new feature is proved to gain traction then wouldn’t be tempting (or even logical) to use these data for advertising purposes; especially if it pays well. Well, all it takes is an update to Google Terms of Service and Google Privacy Policy. You can check Google Maps Terms of Service by scrolling to the bottom of the app screen. My guess is that for Google to proceed with this new feature they have definitely seen something there. It remains to be seen.

 

Is Google Maps about to become another social network?

 

Apparently Google seems to think that users use Google Maps not only just to navigate in the city but also to mark favorite places, write and read reviews, take photos and share them publicly. “The ability to share lists of locations with friends and family, though, seems more like a Facebook move than a Google one” as theverge.com  points out. In fact, one could say that is a niche social network, extremely targeted and well designed. Positioning it as a social platform makes it more appealing to advertisers and marketers. Local businesses will benefit the most and especially restaurants and food-places. What is more, Google Maps will openly compete with Foursquare and other smaller startups.

 

Finally, this is yet another bet that Google will have to play hard in order to win. Users will be the final judge. If they find usefulness in the new feature then Google will be happy and take it even further. “Google Maps is a place where all users can get and share information about places regardless of where they’re having their digital conversations” Elizabeth Davidoff said.