Jen Fitzpatrick, vice president of engineering at Google, had to pause for applause several times during her keynote address at Google I/O, but that applause became rapturous when she announced the big one: Google Maps is moving offline later this year.
Speaking about Google’s mission to support the “next billion users” – slated to come online largely in developing countries, through mobile and smartphones – Fitzpatrick discussed a number of changes Google is making to optimise browsing in areas with intermittent or poor connectivity.
“We are taking many of our core products and rethinking them in ways that work far better in a world where speed, size and connectivity are central concerns.”
Optimisation developments include saving webpages and videos for later, minimising the size of loading content and – the big hitter – offline, fully-navigable, turn-by-turn-enabled Google Maps.
It works like this:
A user will save a map to their mobile device.
And that’s it – it’s just that simple.
Once the map has been saved, the user will have all of the familiar Google Maps functionality, including location search, location information (opening hours, reviews) and – the most impressive feature – real-time, turn-by-turn voice directions to their chosen destination.
Fitzpatrick says that “making the world’s information accessible and useful to people everywhere has been at the heart of what Google does right from the start”, and it’s clear that that was a big part of what inspired the move to offline Maps. Making Maps available to those without reliable connections “can have a transformative effect”.
However, if the response from the audience at San Francisco’s Moscone Center is anything to go by, it’s going to be pretty popular with everyone else, too.
Google Maps image, via Tsyhun/Shutterstock.com