Google embarasses MapQuest

Driving directions redux

Warning: slippery road

You’ll never use MapQuest again. With a new addition to its Google Maps service, Google has completely reinvented the notion of online driving directions, letting you adjust routes with a simple drag and drop.

In the past, when you asked services like MapQuest or Google Maps for driving directions, you took what they gave you. Now, thanks to Google’s latest brainstorm, you can customize your directions on the fly. If you’re dead-set on avoiding a particularly-congested part of town, for instance, you can drag your driving route a little this way or that - and Google will automatically change the turn-by-turn directions.

”Can you imagine going back to clicking arrows and waiting for the screen to refresh just to move the map left/right/up/down? It'd be as big a bummer as going back to 8-track tapes,” wrote software engineers Ryan Sturgell and Barry Brumitt on the official Google Earth and Google Maps blog. “Today, we're taking another big step forward with driving directions in Google Maps.”

It’s hard not to agree with them. The new tools also give you the power to change a route’s beginning and end points via drag and drop. And whatever part of a route you’re dragging to and fro, a floating ticker updates the total distance and duration of your trip - in real-time.

How do they do it? Google product manager Jessica Lee attributes the speed of these tools to the company's server infrastructure. "We've had our engineers specifically working on our driving direction servers to make them extremely fast," she told The Register. "That's what allows us to do real-time re-routing." Naturally, the new drag-and-drop interface was coded with AJAX. ®

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