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Google Maps "Continuous Zoom": Sizzle or Fizzle?

Yesterday Google released several new features for Google Maps:

  • Three new tabs allowing you to search for a specific place, search for a business, or get directions.  This makes it a lot easier to get to the three main tasks you perform with this package.
  • Double click to zoom in on a map, which makes it much easier to get detail on the map you’ve found.
  • Continuous zoom, which smoothly zooms in on a map rather than repainting it.

The first two are obvious, and welcome, UI refinements.  A Google product manager has clearly spent time watching Google Maps users at work, and concluded that searching and getting detail could be made easier. Because of the fact that they release to the web, instead of to a lengthy OEM or retail distribution channel, they can push these two changes to users immediately.  Cool!

Continuous zoom?  Well, sizzling new graphics features always sell to the geek crowd (me included!).  But this is just  goofy.  It’s definitely not in the category of sizzle.  Continuous zoom is an imitation of the same feature in Google Earth, but without the underlying graphics hardware support. Consequently, it stretches the bitmap, zooms in, and repaints it, rather than incremently streaming the changes in the way that Google Earth does.  The result is jumpy, and looks like a bad zoomed-in image in Microsoft Paint until the new bitmaps are put in.  I’m guessing that they did it this way because AJAX applications like Google Maps don’t have the same access to the raw graphics hardware on the PC that a native application like Google Earth has.


{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Jeremy Bettis July 12, 2006, 5:56 am

    I like the continous zoom, even though it gets all pixelated. They are just catching up with yahoo maps beta, which has the zoom feature.

    It makes it easier to decide just how much zooming you need to do, for example if I want to zoom to see the whole city, even with the fuzzy pixels, I can tell when I am at the right point without waiting for a redraw.

  • Zachary Houle July 12, 2006, 1:25 pm

    Ditto. Don't like the pixels, but it sure beats waiting for maps to get redrawn over and over again every time you want to zoom in or out. Loving it.

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