New York (CNN Business)Google Maps is rolling out new features to make the app more focused on community engagement. It’s part of Google Maps’ evolution from a directions app to a search-and-answer engine for businesses and customers.
These are the newest updates to Google Maps:
- Community feed within the app: With this new feature, Google Maps users will be able to access the latest reviews, photos and posts added to Maps by people they follow and local experts. It’s like Yelp ( ) — but it’ll be available directly in the app.
- Messaging for Maps and Search: Verified companies can message customers directly from the app, allowing searchers to interact with businesses and ask questions. The messages from customers will show up in the businesses messages section in the app’s update tab.
- Performance insights for businesses: This business-focused update will track how well a company is performing by measuring the number of customer engagements initiated from Maps and Search. This system will provide news insight for businesses’ performance and engagement with customers on Google.
- Street View images added by users: Google Maps users will be able to submit their own Street View images from their phones. Specifically, people can do this by recording a series of connected images while they move down a street or path. After that footage is recorded and published, Google will automatically rotate, position, and combine the images.
It’s been a big year for updates for the app, which was released in 2005. In September, Google Maps introduced a feature that shows traffic lights at a number of US cities.
With the new social features Google unveiled this month, Yelp’s competition with Google Maps is stronger than ever. And Yelp is well-aware. In March, the company shared its long-standing grievances about Google at a hearing at the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee.
Google (GOOG) faces an antitrust lawsuit from the government unrelated to Maps. It focuses on two main areas. The first focus is the company’s decision to make Google search the default on Android, its mobile operating system and the world’s most popular, which is distributed on its own phones as well as on phones made by some other manufacturers. The second area of focus is Google’s contracts with Apple (AAPL), Samsung (SSNLF) and other device manufacturers that make Google search the default on their phones.