By REUBEN SCHWARZ, 29 May 2006

Sourced From

Google has put street-level maps of all of New Zealand online, launching the local version of its popular advertising-based mapping service far earlier than some domestic competitors had anticipated.

Google Maps covers the whole country and lists nearly every road, from Auckland’s Southern Motorway to Pier St in remote Jackson Bay.

Its maps are of comparable quality to those put online by Wellington start-up Zoomin and established national mapping firm Wises.

Google Maps is popular in North America, where the service first launched in 2005. There, users can search its maps for restaurants, hotels and other businesses. A host of “mash-ups” – maps that combine Google’s mapping data with other information – have been created by third parties overseas.

These range from the useful, such as one which provides real-time commuter train positions in Dublin, to the frivolous, such as a mash-up which lets people coordinate slices of bread on opposite points of the globe to make an “Earth sandwich”.

Businesses can list their location on Google Maps for free, or can advertise as “sponsored links”, though Google Maps doesn’t appear to have attracted any New Zealand advertisers so far.

Zoomin, which has been trying to steal a jump on the multinational, isn’t worried about the arrival of the search giant.

Managing director John Clegg says it’s a positive move for the industry.

On Google’s maps of the US, Canada, Japan and Europe, users can search for specific addresses, but this is not yet possible in Australasia.

“It’s actually benefited us in terms of raising our exposure because they haven’t completed the job,” Mr Clegg says.

He believes Zoomin can prosper in Google’s shadow because it’s not simply a map site, but a community site as well. On Zoomin, users can post their own photos or comments to share with others. The 15,000 postings loaded to date give a better idea what places are really like, he says.

“If I’m going to Martinborough, I want to see how that’s different from Carterton,” he says.

“Businesses that are more at risk are the Wises and Yellow Pages, because that’s potentially eating out their business.”

Microsoft has launched an updated version of its Windows Live Local online mapping service this week, integrating its maps with real-time traffic reports for US cities.

The latest release of Windows Live Local lets users easily share maps through email, blogs and instant messages. An add-on for Outlook users automatically schedules driving times into diary appointments