Google Maps is a web mapping service developed by Google. It offers satellite imagery, street maps, 360° panoramic views of streets (Street View), real-time traffic conditions (Google Traffic), and route planning for traveling by foot, car, bicycle (in beta), or public transportation.
Google Maps began as a C++ desktop program designed by Lars and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen 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 Maps’ satellite view is a “top-down” or “birds 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 uses a close variant of the Mercator projection, and therefore cannot accurately show areas around the poles.
The current redesigned version of the desktop application was made available in 2013, alongside the “classic” (pre-2013) version. Google Maps for Android and iOS devices was released in September 2008 and features GPS turn-by-turn navigation along with dedicated parking assistance features. In August 2013, it was determined to be the world’s most popular app for smartphones, with over 54% of global smartphone owners using it at least once. In 2012, Google reported having over 7,100 employees and contractors directly working in mapping.