Google Maps is a web mapping service developed by Google. It offers satellite imagery, aerial photography, street maps, 360° panoramic views of streets (Street View), real-time traffic conditions, and route planning for traveling by foot, car, bicycle and air (in beta), or public transportation. Google Maps began as a C++ desktop program at Where 2 Technologies.
In October 2004, the company was acquired by Google, which converted it into a web application. After additional acquisitions of a geospatial data visualization company and a realtime traffic analyzer, Google Maps was launched in February 2005.
Google Map Maker allowed users to collaboratively expand and update the service’s mapping worldwide but was discontinued from March 2017. However, crowd sourced contributions to Google Maps were not discontinued as the company announced those features would be transferred to the Google Local Guides program.
Google Maps’ satellite view is a “top-down” or bird’s-eye view; most of the high-resolution imagery of cities is aerial photography taken from aircraft flying at 800 to 1,500 feet (240 to 460 m), while most other imagery is from satellites. Much of the available satellite imagery is no more than three years old and is updated on a regular basis. Google Maps used a variant of the Mercator projection, and therefore could not accurately show areas around the poles.
However, in August 2018, the desktop version of Google Maps was updated to show a 3D globe as the default projection. It is still possible to switch back to the Mercator Projection in the settings.