New Google Maps Basemap Now Shows Terrain, Vegetation By Default

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The Google Maps basemap is getting a visual overhaul today. Unlike most updates, though, this one is for the actual maps and not just the interface. Starting today, Google Maps will show you information about terrain, as well as color gradations to depict vegetation and additional labels for natural land formations like the Gobi Desert and the Amazon Basin.

Google started offering an optional ‘terrain’ layer for Google Maps in 2008, but with today’s update, seeing terrain has now become the default. It’s worth noting, though, that the old ‘terrain’ layer continues to be an option. While the terrain information on the new basemap is relatively subtle the more you zoom in, the old terrain layer continues to provide you with more detailed information at a more granular level.

This new data on the basemap, Google says, allows you to “quickly and easily see where the great forests, deserts, and mountain ranges around the world begin and end.” Google also notes that this information can provide its users with a better understanding of “how natural land formations can impact where, how and why man-made developments like urban cities, dams and bridges are made.”

Here is what the old map looked like:

And this is what it looks like now:


Google says it hopes “this new visual information literally provides you with a more comprehensive and accurate lay of the land, and comes in handy whether you’re planning a trip or just browsing the map. From lush rolling hills to expansive deserts, just click and explore!”