The refresh of Google Maps shows just how far browsers have come since the original was first released eight years ago.

The new mapping system makes use of new 3D graphic capabilities built into modern browsers like Firefox and Google’s own Chrome. The technology allows for smooth zooms and map scrolling, making the web version of maps feel more like the standalone Google Earth application. It also combines some of the predictive intelligence Google has been working into its other applications, which can customize what is displayed on each user’s map based on their interests and preferences.

Google has streamlined their search interface, with a floating search box appearing inside a map that fills the browser window. It also makes it easier to navigate to Street View which overlays street level images photographed by Google’s roving fleet of mapping vehicles.

The original Google maps was among the first live web applications that allowed moving through a map without having to wait for a screen refresh. It was built on web standards and did not require a plugin to operate. The new version also does not require any additional software.

The new maps is currently in limited preview mode, but Google is allowing users in on a rolling basis who apply on the Google maps site.

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