Happy 15th Birthday, Google Maps!

When Google Maps was first released, it changed everything. It transformed the way people navigate the world, ultimately becoming an indispensable tool for those needing directions. It has become so ubiquitous in modern times, that there are likely many young people that never even tried using an old-school paper map (which can be impossible to fold). Stopping at a gas station to ask a clerk for directions? A relic of yesteryear -- your smartphone can get you anywhere.

Today, Google Maps celebrates a 15th birthday (where does the time go?), and believe it or not, it is still the best such service. While Apple Maps has gotten considerably better over the years, Google's offering is still better. Quite frankly, I don't see that changing anytime soon -- if ever. To celebrate this monumental birthday, Google Maps is not only gaining some new features, but getting a nice redesign too -- don't worry, it is nothing too dramatic.

ALSO READ: Google Maps for Apple iPhone gets privacy-friendly 'Incognito Mode'

"In 2005, we set out to map the world. Since then we’ve pushed the limits of what a map can do: from helping you easily navigate from point A to B, to helping you explore and get things done in the world. With more than 1 billion people turning to Google Maps to see and explore the world, we're celebrating our 15th birthday with a new look and product updates based on feedback from you," says Dane Glasgow, VP of Product, Google Maps.

Glasgow further says, "We’re also updating our look with a new Google Maps icon that reflects the evolution we’ve made mapping the world. It’s based on a key part of Google Maps since the very beginning -- the pin -- and represents the shift we’ve made from getting you to your destination to also helping you discover new places and experiences. And because we can’t resist a good birthday celebration, keep an eye out for our celebratory party-themed car icon, available for a limited time when you navigate with Google Maps."

The biggest change from an interface perspective -- besides the new icon seen in the video directly above -- is the five tabs located on the bottom on the screen. It is presented in such a way that you can easily access the desired task. Google shares the tab names and associated description below.

  • Explore: Looking for a place nearby to grab lunch, enjoy live music or play arcade games? In the Explore tab, you’ll find information, ratings, reviews and more for about 200 million places around the world, including local restaurants, nearby attractions and city landmarks.
  • Commute: Whether you’re traveling by car or public transit, the Commute tab is there to make sure you’re on the most efficient route. Set up your daily commute to get real-time traffic updates, travel times and suggestions for alternative routes.
  • Saved: People have saved more than 6.5 billion places on Google Maps—from the new bakery across town to the famous restaurant on your upcoming vacation. Now you can view all of these spots in one convenient place, as well as find and organize plans for an upcoming trip and share recommendations based on places you've been.
  • Contribute: Hundreds of millions of people each year contribute information that helps keep Google Maps up to date. With the new Contribute tab, you can easily share local knowledge, such as details about roads and addresses, missing places, business reviews and photos. Each contribution goes a long way in helping others learn about new places and decide what to do.
  • Updates: The new Updates tab provides you with a feed of trending, must-see spots from local experts and publishers, like The Infatuation. In addition to discovering, saving and sharing recommendations with your network, you can also directly chat with businesses to get questions answered.

There are plenty of other cool new features coming to Google Maps today, such as improved Augmented Reality (AR) in Live View and enhanced information about public transportation. Both of those features will only get better as time marches on. Hell, we can depend on Google Maps to continue to improve over the upcoming years, as the search giant seems very committed to its continued success.

If you are excited to try this new Google Maps experience, I have good news. You should be able to access it through both the Android and iOS apps starting today.

Photo Credit: nito / Shutterstock

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