is beefing up its popular Maps service.
On Thursday, the company unveiled a new set of tools that will let users easily customize by adding text, graphics and video to the map portfolio. They can choose to either publish so that other Web surfers can see them or keep private.
The move will allow Internet users to benefit from other users' knowledge about locales. Maps users have already created thousands of hybrid maps, which post items of interest on Google's map platform. But these "mashups" require programming knowledge and have been the domain of more tech-savvy users. However, the new map-making tools will allow users to create mashups by simply pointing and clicking.
On its company blog, Google posted examples of mashups that had been created internally while it was testing the new tools. Maps were modified to point out popular attractions along Route 66, the locations of baseball stadiums and the voting results of states in the 2004 Presidential election.
The introduction of the new tools may seem lighthearted, but it also marks a big push by Google to stake out territory in the booming local search space. It will allow Google to tap its users for richer description of local areas. This, in turn, will make its mobile and local search products more valuable.
Google has already announced plans to feature its maps on
highly anticipated iPhone mobile device, among other handheld products.
Shares of Google were recently off 4 cents to $470.98.