Friday, May 17, 2013
I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my invitation to join the new Google Maps application. Reading about it in yesterday's New York Times, I learned that this new version is the most radical redesign in the application's eight years of existence. Now, everyone's map will be unique and will be uniquely rendered each time you open the application. As the Times reporter observed, this new feature "hovers over the line between useful and creepy." It seems that sometime recently Google altered its terms of service. That's the boilerplate language to which we all click "I agree" even though we don't read it. This change gave Google permission to incorporate our searches, emails and all of our other information into the mapping application. Let's say I recently searched for "coffee shops in Lowell." With the new app, when I display a map of Lowell, all of the city's coffee shops will be highlighted. Ads for some, including ready-to-use coupons will also display. If I travel to Worcester and consult a Google map to aid navigation, coffee shops in that city will display. Like the reader said, "useful and creepy." In the registry of deeds' world here in the Commonwealth, much of our planning for the future involves a greater use of mapping technology. We envision all real estate related information - ownership documents, subdivision plans, assessor records, etc - to be tied to that point on a map. One thing driving both Google and us is the transformation of the world's information technology culture from desktops to mobile devices. As the name states explicitly, a mobile device moves around and knowing where you are is critical. The new Google Maps application is not yet publicly available. To use it, you have to ask for an invitation. I've just done that. As soon as I get my response, I'll do a follow-up blog post.