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How does Google Maps work? Every feature explained!

Google Maps is one of the most frequently used apps in the world, whether you`re using google search or ordering food from Uber Eats google consistently monitors your location through Google maps and shares these details to help them deliver accurate results. But have you ever thought how does google maps work? So let`s explore it.

How does Google Maps work?

How does Google Maps work?

For decades, people had been using the atlas for mapping purposes but with time they started using digital maps. Digital maps removed the hustle of carrying several physical maps by offering online mapsIt has been more than one decade now since the launch of Google Maps, but the journey of their mapping service began in the mid-2000s when google acquired Where 2 technologies, a Sydney based company.

Why Google launched Maps?

The idea behind Maps was to collect and organize the information of the entire world and make it accessible for everyone. Google first acquired Where 2 technologies in the mid-2000s and then acquired Keyhole, a satellite imaging company in 2004. The advantage of Where 2 from others was its capability of showing a map of different regions without refreshing it over and over. With this, people were able to navigate businesses in their areas. As we know, Google is a data company and to make maps a success it required lots of data, so where did this data come from?

Collection of data

The primary objective was the collection of data and storing in the database. Earlier google used to collect data from the state government and yellow page directories but it was not sufficient for a project of this scale. So Google made some strategies to collect information.

Map Partners-

Google created a program called "Base Map Partner Program" which collected geological data from the authoritative sources. Agencies that came to google to submit their data included US Geological Survey, US National Park Service, Forest Service and many more submitted their data. This data was used to display new roads, waterways, buildings, central parks and many more to keep the map updated. Earlier google used Yellow page directories to know where businesses are but later on, owners started to share data with google on their own. 

Street View-

In the Map Partner program, authority sources gave data to google but sometimes they were unable to give data so google came with the idea of Street View. For Street View, Google uses multiple vehicles mounted with a custom-designed 360-degree camera on the roof to capture a panorama of the streets. The vehicles just need to move on the streets and the camera automatically captures panoramas. Locations where vehicular movement is not possible, google takes use of cycles and also humans. 360-degree is mounted on the back of a human and were ever human tracker goes, the camera captures that location.

These cameras are integrated with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capability to help google read signboards and business names. Artificial Intelligence is used to extract characters out of images and converting into computer-readable form. These images then get combined with the coordinates recorded through GPS to give you exact pictures of that place. 


To capture the whole world, google uses several satellites and combines data received from these to show a Global Map. The high-resolution images are captured by satellites and compared with Street View, data submitted from agencies to get high accuracy. The satellite view helps to track any geographic change, change in the direction of the river and many more things.

In countries where Street View has not reached yet, people mostly rely on data received from satellites.

Location Services-

Have you ever thought about how Google shows you real-time traffic updates, if yes here is the answer. Whenever you search for traffic updates you are also a part of that traffic and with data collected from multiple users, Google gives you estimated results. Google makes use of location services that are enabled in our smartphone to collect this information.

It continuously monitors the location of several users and if the frequency of users on a particular path increases, it automatically understands that it as a road. On the opposite side, if the frequency of users becomes near to zero it stops suggesting that street.

Local Guides-

Do you know, Google is partially dependent on local guides for data. There are millions of Local Guides around the globe who share a lot of useful data with maps on a daily basis. In today's date, data of almost every corner of the world is available on maps and local guides played a major role in this.

Anyone who wants to share any images, feedback of any place can share on maps and as you share your first data you actually became a local guide. People around the globe share pictures of places where google would`ve never reached.

Google combines data received from all these sources and cross-checks it to give you accurate results.

Read- Google Maps

Google Maps in Offline

Do you know you can use maps in offline too, yes you heard it right. If you`re going to a remote area where internet connection is weak or close to zero, Google lets you download a map and navigate offline. 

Steps to download Offline Map-
  1. Open Maps
  2. Go to the menu, drop down and select Offline Map
  3. Select download offline
Note: The size of the map depends on the area you have selected. The maximum area of the map you can download offline is 120,000 square kilometers.

This map will last up to 30 days and after that, you need to update that. You can download offline maps through a cellular internet connection or through Wi-fi.

Google Maps 3D view-

Google Maps 3D View

To enhance user experience and make you feel like you are actually at that place, Googe launched Maps 3D view also known as Google Earth. This lets you see the world in 3D. The satellite view gives you a global view of the world but Google Earth gives you a 3 Dimensional view of the places you want to see.

For making things look more realistic and showing them in 3D, Google takes helicopters, airplanes mounted with customized cameras in all directions to capture the view from all sides. These airplanes, helicopters fly over the targetted area and capture hundreds of photos. With the help of computer vision, these photos are then virtually stitched together to give an elevated look of anything. In the case of underwater places, scuba divers are used for capturing marine life. Scuba divers take cameras in underwater to give you a view of that place. 

This is not it, editing is also done to make images more clear. Vehicles in the images are removed while editing. Shades of images are changed and checked which fits best. Google Earth in both app and web version, you can access it through any device. There are VR glasses to give you a mesmerizing feel of your favorite place. With just a tap from your device, you can experience anything you want to.

Alternative for Google Maps

Google Maps is one of the finest in its field. The amount of data Google has managed to capture is just unimaginable. It gives you the comfort of accessing almost everything at your fingertips.

But if you don't want or are not able to access Google Maps so don`t worry there are alternatives for google maps also.

Bing Maps- 

Bing Maps is a great mapping app and the fact is that it is as old as Google. It was first known as MapBlast and when tech giant Microsoft acquired it in 2002, they renamed it as Bing Maps. Bing Maps offers you features like 3D view, live traffic, Birds eye vision or street view. You can select distance in miles or kilometers for driving, walking directions. When you search for any place, you get images, about the location and points of interest with results. You can also save your favorite places and share them with others.


MapQuest is one of the oldest and prominent in this industry. Founded by R.R Doney and Sons in 1967, it was later acquired by AOL. For commuters, it is a great alternative to Google Maps. It lets you find your route, local transport facilities and also lets you book cabs right from the app. It shows you places where you can get local transport services and if you`re walking it also shows you how much calories you will burn. It offers features like live traffic, automatic re-routing, an indication of cameras, accident, construction and weather report. 


Citymapper is an app solely made to show you details of public transport. It shows you directions to your destination and also the mode of transport that is available along with prices. The app keeps updating the map, transport options, timings, and prices. It is available for Android, iOS and Windows users.


A large number of users rely on Google Maps for their daily journeys. Google Map know places much better than us. From our previous activities, it suggests us new locations. Google is heavily betting on Maps and I believe it will only improve day by day. So hope you enjoyed reading how does Google Maps work. See you again in our next blog.

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