Google My Maps vs Google Maps

As mentioned in this recent post, users that have custom maps are being migrated from the Classic My Maps to Google’s new version of My Maps which was formerly Google Maps Engine Lite. This information pertains to the desktop web versions, not the mobile apps.

So let us have a look at the observable differences between the new Google My Maps and Google Maps, and how it effects Google Earth users. The following post is based entirely on observations made while trying the products and it is important to remember that we have no direct knowledge of the actual technology used behind the scenes.

Both Google Maps and Google My Maps appear to share the same basic mapping data, such as the street map, public transit maps, and points of interest, but beyond that, there are very significant differences between the two.

Google Maps

  • This is again the new Google Maps (also known as the “preview” option).
  • It is dynamic. Click on any place on the map, and the map changes, highlighting subtly important features relevant to the location you clicked and hiding features that are less relevant.
  • It is personal. If you have signed in, then your saved places places will be shown, and possibly your home and work locations if Google knows them. Your current location may also be shown if you wish.
  • It has Street View, including Historical Street View, which cannot be accessed in Google Earths Street View, nor in the older version of Street View.
  • It has Earth view, including 3D imagery and the ability to tilt and pan the view in a way that is similar to Google Earth, but in a number of ways significantly different. Most notably, the 3D view can only be viewed from the four cardinal directions and two specific angles.
  • It has web versions of Google Moon and Google Mars similar to those in Google Earth. There are currently no ‘My Moon’ or ‘My Mars’ products. In Google Moon and Google Mars in the new Google Maps Earth View, there is no search functionality, whereas in the desktop application Google Earth, there is both search functionality and many selectable layers. Plus you can create KML content on the Google Earth versions of Moon and Mars for your own use, or to be shared with others via KML.
  • It has only two base maps – the background image that the map data is overlayed onto. There is the default street map view, which shows significant variation over the different zoom levels, and there is the satellite imagery in Earth View.
  • It has a new rendering engine with a smoother feel when zooming in and out. Also screen updates tend to be done for the whole screen at once rather than in a tiled fashion.
  • It includes the ability to give directions.
  • It has traffic information for some locations.

Google My Maps

  • This is the new Google My Maps, not the classic version. It was formerly Google Maps Engine Lite, and still has references to the old name of “My Places” which was the tie to Google Earth.
  • The new My Maps lacks many of the features of Google Maps, including dynamic changes, personal features, Street View, 3D imagery, tilt, Google Moon, Google Mars, and traffic information.
  • They have just recently added a limited ability to import KML – but, KML import has limitations (see this help page at bottom). You can still import KML with the older My Maps/Places and then import the map into the new My Maps. You can also export the map in KML so you can view it in Google Earth. If you choose the network link version you won’t be able to view off line. (See help page).
  • It has 9 basic base maps available, with each one having optional settings, such as turning off the streets or other features.
  • Although you can add directions as part of your map, a user viewing your shared map cannot get directions.
  • It provides the ability to create your own map, including points, lines, polygons, and directions – this is, after all, its primary purpose. But, the user interface is different from the classic version.
  • It allows you to share the map in either editable form with collaborators, or in read only form. You can share with individuals or with the public.
  • It includes tools to measure distances and areas. Note that measuring areas in Google Earth is only possible in the paid version Google Earth Pro.

Google Maps
Above: Google Maps
1. More information about a place.
2. Directions and Traffic data
3. Save as favorite in your personal map.
4. Street View, photos and reviews.
5. Related places have been shown. We clicked a stadium, so other stadiums and football clubs were highlighted.
6. Limited 3D viewing similar to Google Earth including 3D Cities, Moon/Mars.

Google My Maps
Above: Google My Maps
1. Fewer options on a selected place.
2. Topology base map, not available in Google Maps.
3. Limited ability to import/export KML for use with Google Earth.
4. Alternative view is ‘Satellite’ view and not ‘Earth’ view.
5. Fewer controls.

It is actually possible to preview a My Maps map in Google Maps, but I could not find a way to share one in that way.

The takeaway from all this? Do not expect the users of your My Maps creations to have the same experience they would in Google Maps on the desktop. It is a different product with a different engine under the hood. If you use Google Earth to create your mapping content, you may find limitations in importing the KML to the new My Maps verses the classic version. Similarly, the export of KML is different from the classic version.

[Update: Thanks to GEB reader Marko Zlatic for pointing out that Google Maps’ Earth view can be rotated and tilted freely by holding down the Ctrl key (in Windows, I assume the Command key works on Mac) contrary to the statement in the post above that it is restricted.]

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. I converted to the new My Maps as soon as it was available and since then have created and saved multiple maps. Today I went in and my maps seem to have disappeared! If I choose the option to create a new map, I get an error, “500. That’s an error”. I don’t happen to know anybody else that uses My Maps and was wondering if you might check on yours. If yours are gone too I’m going to be contacting Google!

    • Never mind. After 10-20 minutes it’s all back up now, must have been a hiccup on a server or something.

  2. So help me out here – I’m dumping the map/GPS smartphone app I’ve used for years and want to move to Google, and since I have never used Google maps on my phone, I’m unclear about which is the most updated app. If I’m reading this correctly, “My Maps” and “Maps” are actually two different apps; one is not replacing the other, so it’s really just my preference. Is that correct?

  3. I’m baffled by something with my created maps…..looking at them on my desktop vs using either the My Map Mobile App or Google Map Mobile App. I can view my saved maps on all 3 areas, but they will never look the same. Meaning, things I’ve marked on the Google mobile App show up in my list of tings on the my Map, but won’t actually show up on the map itself. It’s very frustrating when out in the woods and the mobile versions are not saving to the web browser version even though new points marked are showing up in the list. I may have to dump this all together and look for another outdoors App to re-create my maps into.

  4. A prime example is for my hunting land. I have a boarder drawn out to show the property lines. It shows up on the desktop, shows up on the My Map mobile app, but does not show up on the Google App when I click on my saved map. I need to know when I’m venturing too far off outside our property lines to stay out of any potential trouble with neighboring properties. Now again, The property lines are saved in the details list and is seen in said list for the Google App, just won’t show up. This wasn’t the case 2 months or so ago. All 3 versions were updating if I made any changes either on the desktop or out in the woods with either mobile app.

    On the flip-side, all my saved marks (points) on the Google App won’t show up on the My Map or Desktop version, but all do show up in the list of saved marked points….ugh!

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.