Last night, I was out with some friends in search of a particular bar. Naturally, we did the 21st century equivalent of asking a gas station attendant for directions, we pulled out our iPhones to look it up in the Maps application. The result was odd; the bar we were looking for was there, but there was another result in the same spot, labeled as “User-created content.”
Yesterday, Search Engine Land noted that sponsored links (ads) are starting to show up in the Maps application on the iPhone. It would appear that Google is slowly adding some new features. But what’s odd is that these features are showing up without warning, and, as far as I can tell, without a way to turn them off.
While clearly, Google is not going to let you turn off sponsored links, the user-generated content element is odd. These pins show that some random person I don’t know was at the place I’m looking for, at some random time. It’s simply not useful at all.
I also wonder how Apple, which loves to have total control of its devices, feels about these additions. Google helped Apple build the default Maps application, but it is still one of Apple’s own apps and now it seems that Google can simply inject any content it wants into Maps from its end. Also a bit odd is that this particular piece of user-generated content comes from the location-based social network Plazes, which is owned by mobile rival Nokia.
I’m all for Google injecting user-generated content into Maps on the iPhone provided that it’s useful. So far, it doesn’t appear to be. There also needs to be a way to turn it off if you don’t want to see it. Without those two things, Maps on the iPhone could become a cluttered mess of useless information quickly. Perhaps that’s why Apple bought its own mapping company this summer.