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Is Google Maps trying to be a social network?

Is Google Maps trying to be a social network?


Would you like to follow my list of mediocre Chinese buffets in Des Moines, Iowa?

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Google Maps just added a new feature that allows users to create lists of favorite locations, for themselves or to share with family or friends. You can also follow your friends’ lists of favorite spots, or send them yours via text, email, messaging apps, or social media. All of which raises the question: is Google Maps trying to become a social network?

The update, which is available today for both iOS and Android, is being billed as a better way to organize all your favorite restaurants, bars, museums, and coffee shops in one place. Google thinks you’ll want to use this feature to flex your knowledge of local hot spots when out-of-towners come to visit. The ability to create lists has been available through Google’s Local Guides program for a while. But now the company is rolling out the function to all users.

Of course, Google has been operating under the assumption for a while now that people want to use Maps for reasons other than simply getting from point A to point B. Lately, the search giant has been adding tons of new features, including the ability to hail an Uber or Lyft ride from within the app, or to tell whether parking is difficult in a particular neighborhood.

The ability to share lists of locations with friends and family, though, seems more like a Facebook move than a Google one, which raises an interesting question about how people use Google Maps. Google has done the heavy lifting by mapping pretty much the entire the world through labor intensive efforts like Street View and crowdsourcing real-time traffic updates with Waze. It’s added popular locations, businesses, ratings, comments, photos, and other details that previously were exclusive to sites like Yelp. Now it wants to take all that data and let its users personalize it, in the hopes they’ll want to spread it around like they do with their photos.