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Google Maps reintroduced a useful feature, and many people don’t know about it yet

by Felix Omondi

The thing we all love about Google is its ability to keep innovation ahead of its time, and that is the thing its competitors hate the most about this search engine giant.

This past Wednesday, Google pulled off yet another impressive innovation on the Google Maps app. The innovation is so impressive, it leaves you asking yourself; ‘why hadn’t they come up with it sooner?’

Well, this particular innovation is not new, rather something Google had thought of years earlier but due to regulations and perhaps bureaucracies, it was forced to shut down. That said, do you remember Google Latitude app?

You probably don’t, and if you do, you are part the very few. Back in 2009, when smartphones were in infancy and not so common. Google launched an app that users to share their location with their contacts letting them know their exact location on a map. Of course, sharing that information was at the discretion of the user. They could share only if they wanted to share and only to whom they want to share that information with.

The Latitude app drew widespread privacy concern with one particular European privacy advocacy agency, the Privacy International publishing a report highlighting various risks users might be exposed to. At the time, Google defended the app by saying the company takes users’ privacy seriously and that they have added a new feature to alert users whenever the Latitude app was turned on. Long story short, Google lost favor is users’ eyes and the app had to be scrapped.

Fast Forward to 2017, a lot has changed

Yesterday, Google quietly reintroduced Latitude but this time as a feature natively baked onto Google Maps. This new feature (now not called Latitude) enables users to share with their contacts the exact location on a map.

And why not? The world has drastically changed from where it was in 2009. Nowadays two billion people are on Facebook; a social network hell bent on knowing where you are, what you’re up to, who you are with. Not forgetting thousands of people walk around with bracelets in their arms that track their physical activities. In homes, people now have Alexa that gives updates on the weather and sports scores.

So why wouldn’t Google revive a technology to which it was a pioneer and got shut down only for other to mimic a version of it and flourish with that idea?

Compare Latitude of the 2009 and the new Google Map featureGoogle Maps

Google Maps

Google Maps

There is virtually no difference between the Latitude of 2009 and the new Google Map feature rolled out yesterday. Their interface is almost identical despite the fact that technology has changed drastically in the last eight years.

This development also unearths a fact hard to ignore. Our societal norms are quite fluid and not cast in stone as it thought to be, what was bad then is good now, and the reverse is also true.

As for Google’s tumbles, look at the reception it got for the Google Glass, and the kind of reception Snapchat’s sunglasses are getting. There is little innovation separating Google Glass and Snapchat sunglasses, but Google was the pioneer of that idea in the market.

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