Google Maps is my go-to tool for finding local businesses, but it isn't always the most transparent way to see them at a glance. For example, I'll search for a café in a major retail hub, but half the results will be from the Starbucks inside Target or the little deli inside a grocery store - not exactly what I'm looking for in a quiet meal. Things might soon get a little easier on that account: the Google Asia Pacific blog says that upcoming versions of Google Maps will list business types right in the map view... but only in Japan for now.
Google already knows the difference between, say, a laundromat called Clean Sheets and a nautical bar called Three Sheets to the Wind, but the only way to tell them apart at a glance is via the icon and the name. Imagine the same sort of thing in a different language and you can see how users might get confused. According to the post, more descriptive labels such as "dry cleaning" and "coin-op laundry" will be posted in the map view in Japan starting today. Maps users in 19 languages, from English and German to Hindi and Korean, will see descriptions of places in their native languages on the map view upon arriving in Japan. Here's the full list:
These include Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Dutch, English, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.
As handy as this will be for tourists in Japan, I have to wonder, why not roll it out worldwide? The names of particular locations are already hidden until you zoom in to a specific level, why not simply add the business types (over a thousand now) to their names in the map view? After all, Japan isn't the only place where visitors might be confused by business names in the local language. Perhaps Google will make that change, and it's testing the Japanese market for user reaction. We'll see.
- Google Asia Pacific blog