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.
- 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.
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.
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.]