Google has aggregated what it’s calling a “Geographic Web Layer” in Google Earth. It’s a collection of photos and informational content from Wikipedia, Panoramio and user-generated content from the Google Earth user community. Here’s more from the Official Google Blog.
We’ve taken the rich data of Wikipedia, Panoramio, and the Google Earth Community and made a browsable layer in Google Earth. Now you can fly anywhere in the world and see what people have written about it, photographed, or posted. I went hopping around from the southern tip of South America to the mosques in the Middle East to the Maldives Islands, immersed in a wealth of information, and I really felt like I was visiting each place through eyes of people who had been there. It was really engaging to compare, say, the Grand Canyon through the photos in Panoramio to the view from Google Earth, where I could follow the Colorado River through each.
Here’s Google’s Matt Cutts on local results (with Maps) in Google.com: “plus box.”
I really like this feature because it’s useful but you don’t have to remember to go to a completely different place to look up local info. Instead, this feature integrates with our main web search to help the majority of our users without them doing anything extra.
On the general subject of dynamic mapping . . . it’s now very clear that some sort of enhanced mapping capability is becoming “table stakes” for local search sites. The question is finding the just right balance of “wow” features and basic functionality.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.