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Will the New Google Maps Destroy the Fun of Travel?

May 29, 2013 at 4:54 PM | by | ()

Forbes has a nice little post about the new version of Google Maps that's getting rolled out. Apparently it has all kinds of neat features. There is a new interface that pops up information cards whenever you search for an address. On the card are options to save the location, get directions, see the Street View, and so on. There are options for comparing trip versions—should you hop on a bus or drive—and a smoother, more detailed map. Slick.

And then at the very bottom of the post there's a mention about how the new Google Maps version has new algorithms for directing users to restaurants and other facilities. Google will compile everything it knows about you—your clicks and preferences, and you social networks, and what you mention over email—to shape the personalize the information it shows you just like it does with search results.

Theoretically users will get to see more of what they prefer, and less of what they don't. Concludes Forbes: "very cool."

Actually, says noted cybergrouch Evgeny Morozov, very, very uncool. The entire idea of personalized maps—maps that quite literally look different depending on who is using them—risks ruining a lot of what's special about living in cities. Taken to the extreme, and frankly what Google is talking about is not far from that extreme, we would get directed only to places that are comfortable and familiar to us and our friends. That's in Google's interest because if it can reliably drive particular people to particular places, it can sell ads to the people who run those places.

But the rest of us would lose the "disorder, chaos, and novelty" that make living in big urban spaces, for lack of a better word, awesome. And that's before we get to the privacy implications of having Google connect us to our friends to our preferences, to what we do minute to minute.

From a travel perspective, frankly, going only to places that you already know you want to go sounds...kind of horrific. What do you think?

[Photo: Google Maps via Slate]

Archived Comments:


Have you seen the Expedia commercial where the woman flies through the trees on a zipline and says "the person I am back home would never do this." That's why we travel - to become someone new for awhile and have experiences that are outside our regular lives. I don't want to be pigeonholed into someone else's view of who I am. Where's the spontaneous joy of doing something completely different? Buy a map and let Big Brother stay home.