Google wants to turn more of its Maps users into map makers. The company just launched a new, free custom map editor, Google Maps Engine Lite beta. Google says it contains more powerful and easier-to-use tools than those already available on Google Maps since 2007, through its My Maps editor. But the new tools are also less complicated than what Google offers through its full Maps Engine, which companies and businesses use for professional-grade mapping.
users can import spreadsheets of location data into a custom Google map
Maps Engine Lite lets users pick between different map base layers, from a satellite view to one optimized for roads. For the first time, individual users can import and compare multiple spreadsheets of location data into a custom Google map, which Google will convert into points on the map. It also converts new points users add to the map later into spreadsheet cells. As is the case on the standard Google My Maps editor, Maps Engine Lite users are able to choose from a variety of different pin icons, which they can drop anywhere on their map. Users can also draw lines and connect them into shapes more easily than on regular Google Maps.
Functionally, though, many of the features are the same as before, and some features on regular Google My Maps editor are better, such as the fact that it detects and displays the real-world distance of the lines users draw, which Maps Engine Lite doesn't do, yet. But the product is still an English-only beta, which indicates that Google has plans to add more features to it in the future. Google's move comes as other map making competitors step up their efforts. Washington, DC-based startup MapBox, for example, is launching its own simple editor for the open-source rival OpenStreetMap.