Perpetual Beta – Google Maps

25 04 2010

The wide availability of the internet has allowed developers to benefit from the users by treating us as co-developers. The idea of a perpetual beta application simply means that it is “unfinished” and it is also an ongoing process of frequent improvements and repairs. Newly discovered applications might be a wonderful idea that might be appealing to the market, but in order for it to be successful developers endeavor in fine-tuning their applications according to user expectations. This also ensures that end users are crystal clear on what they are using at the stage of development (Concursive Fusion, 2007).

Google Maps is an ideal example of perpetual beta because it is constantly updating and improving seamlessly. This is what makes perpetual beta more attractive compared to the conventional software beta because the updates do not take you by surprise due to the much smaller changes. For instance, users are able to get to where they want in a more convenient way by getting precise directions to shops, restaurants, public transportations and more. The world is constantly changing, so it is important to update these changes as promptly as possible in order to maintain the reliability of information. Users have the privilege to write directly to Google for any edits or suggestions. There are also various Google applications that incorporates the map-based services, such as, Google Ride Finder, Google Transit, Google Latitude, Google Flu Shot Finder and various maps on third-party websites (e.g. Geo-tags) (Wikipedia, 2010).
Comparison with other web 2.0 applications
There are a various geographical map applications out there and like Google Maps they all share similar functions. It is one of the most well known map applications being utilized by not only computers, but other mobile devices (e.g. iPhone GPS). In addition, some of the various top competitors of Google Maps are, Feedmap, Geo IP Tool, Wayfaring, Yahoo Local, Flagr, Placeopedia, and Gvisit (Yadav, 2009).
Critical and strategic implications
The number of growing users has allowed Google Maps to expand and develop different geographical applications. In 2005, when the application was just released, users were only able to view streets in an aerial perspective. However, with the vast developments and improvements different functions have emerged, such as, street view, topographic view, traffic info, GPS integration, and 3D terrains of exotic monuments. In addition, Google has created Google Maps API for developers to implement the application into their websites with their own personalized data points to provide flexibility (Wikipedia, 2010).
Legal and ethical issues
In spite of the vast enhancements and developments, various legal and ethical issues have been raised. For instance, when the Street View functionality was released users were able to view streets within a 360-degree level imagery for various places around the world. These images are not in real time and they can be several years old, which is why Google has provided the ability for users to report for problems in order to maintain the accuracy of data.
Another issue is the privacy of the images being utilized which might include objects or people that might be objectionable. Therefore, in order to respect and ensure an individual’s privacy, Google has made it easy for us to completely remove any images that might affect our privacy (e.g. pictures of ourselves, families, cars, or houses) (Weiss, 2009).
Future directions
Google Maps are growing rapidly and changing the way we view the world. We as users are able to view places in the world with just a few finger clicks. Today, earth is not the only geographical map application available for free. Google has other geographical applications with the help and support of NASA to develop, Google Moon, Google Mars, and Google Sky – they are taking their journey into Space (Lewis, 2005).

  • Concursive Fusion. 2007. The Benefits of Beta Software (accessed April 22, 2010).
  • Chitu A. 2007. Perpetual Beta (accessed April 23, 2010).
  • Lewis, L. 2005. NASA Takes Google on Journey into Space (accessed April 24, 2010).
  • Wikipedia. 2010. Google Maps (accessed April 23, 2010).
  • Weiss, R. T. 2009. Personal Spy Gear (accessed April 25, 2010).
  • Yadav, H. 2009. Top 8 Online free map application to find any geographical location in the world (accessed April 23, 2010).
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    13 responses

    25 04 2010

    Google Maps is an interesting one: I can’t really see it shedding its beta status anytime soon unless they get some way to quickly change maps. For example, the new gateway is STILL not on Google maps, which is a little concerning considering they’re starting to roll out services like Google Maps Navigation.

    25 04 2010

    I don’t think it ever will. Google Map needs to constantly improve hence why it’s a perpetual beta application. As I’ve mentioned on this post, the world is constantly changing and so will Google Map. They need to keep their data as accurate as possible otherwise users will start complaining.

    3 05 2010
    Stefan Borenich

    nice Blog!!
    My blog was also about Google Maps and its Labs. So it provides a separated environment where people can choose if they want to test certain beta-stadium features of Google maps. You can get further information on Google Maps Labs on my posts (

    25 04 2010

    Nice choice of app. Curious – when was Google Maps first launched and how often do they bring out new features? I thought they tended towards a ‘versioning’ system where they occasionally brought out new large packages of updates instead of frequently added small updates, but I haven’t really looked into that.

    25 04 2010

    Thanks:) Well according to Wikipedia, it was first developed by the company Where2, it was then bought by Google where it was converted into Google Maps. On February 8, 2005 the application was officially launched. If you go this link it will show you a list of Google Map’s development History. It’s very interesting and informative, you’ll definitely find it intriguing.

    26 04 2010
    Jack Marrows

    Google maps is a great example of perpetual beta. Notably, they also allow users to opt into beta testing through google labs. This means users aren’t forced to try bleeding edge options but they still have people to do the testing. Do you know anything about the shadow applications used by Google maps?

    27 04 2010

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but Google map will definitely use shadow application because of it’s perpetual beta nature. It’s constantly improving and with the help of shadowing, changes can be made without affecting the code base until the architecture is ready to be implemented. You can go here to read more about shadow application and how it works.

    26 04 2010
    Linn Bade

    Hi! Excellent blog! You have really managed do cover the main important areas of the topic. Really interesting the last bit of information, the one about NASA working with Google to develop Google Moon, Mars and Sky. Do you think it could be some issues with that cooperation?

    27 04 2010

    Thanks for you compliments. Well if you think about it, the main purpose of NASA and Google teaming up is to provide information to the general public about our universe more efficiently. Based on that, i presume that one of the possible issues that could arise, would be the challenges facing computer science from both organizations.

    1 05 2010

    Interesting subject chosen on Google Maps. I guess it is improving for being a perpetual beta nevertheless, it needs to ensure the same features should available throughout all continents widespread. The reason for this is that i noticed many times, the map on my country, Brunei is not much you could see as to other continents. It’s just weird to see some unknown patches saying UNAVAILABLE. Do you think Google should tackle this grey area ASAP or will it let to the social network communities to assist them?

    2 05 2010

    I agree upon what you have mentioned and since I’m from Brunei as well, I can understand exactly where you are coming from. Google should definitely endeavor in improving its “uncompleted” maps for all continents to provide better equality. The reason for this could possibly be caused by the lack of usage and collaboration from users, thus halting the development of that particular map.

    5 05 2010

    Hi Amiel,

    Interesting that perpetual beta can also be used to correct mistakes quickly when things go wrong, like the privacy issues you mentioned. However, sometimes (depending on the application) it may not be suitable to risk security or privacy issues by releasing BETA updates.



    12 05 2010
    Leslie Wong

    Hi! Great blog – Google Maps seems like such an obvious choice for explaining perpetual beta, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it! Of course it has to constantly and incremently change to keep up with the real life changes otherwise it becomes quickly outdated. I’m interested to see their new applications on the universe – exciting times ahead!

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