Google Maps Tests A New Feature That Collects Users’ Foodie Photos

Though services dedicated to photos of food – like Foodspotting or Forkly, for example – have exited the scene (as well as consumers’ collective consciousness) over the years, snapping photos of your delicious dinner still remains a popular activity. Now Google is looking to capitalize on this ongoing trend with a new feature in Google Maps that encourages users to share their “foodie pics” with others by posting the photo to Google Maps itself.

The addition was first spotted by Android Police, which also noted that Google has been working to take better advantage of users’ food photography for some time. For instance, earlier this year, the company shut down an experimental service called Tablescape which focused on users posting their food photos to Google+. At the time of its closure, Google said that it wasn’t giving up on food photography, and it was likely that Tablescape’s influence in other apps would be seen in the future.

Like Tablescape, the new food photography feature in Google Maps is initially available only to Google’s Local Guides.

This program is Google’s competitor to Yelp Elites, as it’s designed to reward those users who write high-quality reviews of area businesses, like restaurants and bars, by offering a variety of benefits to those who take the time to do so. As a user further participates in the program, those benefits increase. For example, new users who haven’t yet written their first review simply receive an informational newsletter and sometimes get to participate in contests. But at the other end of the spectrum, members are invited to exclusive events, have their reviews featured across social media, and receive annual “thank-you” gifts.

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In the case of the food photos, only Google Local Guides which have received a status of “Level 3” or higher – meaning they’ve written at least 50 reviews – are being asked to participate for the time being, says Android Police. These users receive an alert when Google Maps finds that they’ve taken a food-related photo, and it prompts them to attach that photo to a location.

By collecting what are likely to be higher-quality food photos from this community of volunteer local guides, Google could quickly and easily augment its business listings with additional and useful information for searchers. That could ramp up the competition with other local business discovery services, including Yelp.

Already, Google Maps allows both businesses and their customers to upload photos, but this newer feature could encourage the activity among a group of more dedicated reviewers.

The move follows Google’s increasing interest in becoming a better place to connect consumers with restaurants by providing more than just standard business info and maps. For instance, in May, the company partnered with half a dozen delivery service providers including Seamless, Grubhub, Eat24,, BeyondMenu and, in order to allow users to order food directly from Google search results.

Android Police also noted that Guides were being pointed to a Google support link that explains how to opt-out of these notifications about their photos.

The link, however, is not meant only for Local Guides but instead details how Google Maps pushes alerts to users’ phones about nearby places (e.g. you might get an alert about a train schedule while at a transit station), as well as how it prompts users to upload photos to Maps. This latter feature is only enabled if you also have Location History turned on – another feature that was also augmented last month with the addition of “Your Timeline,” a way to catalog and track all the places you’ve been throughout the day.

Google confirmed to us that Local Guides will also need to have Location History turned on in order to share their photos via this new feature which rolled out on August 20th.

However, the company said that for now, the feature is limited to Local Guides Level 3 and up. “We have no  further announcement plans to make at this time,” a Google spokesperson said when asked if this was something the company is considering enabling for all Maps users in the future.

(Image credits: Android Police)