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Check it out: First impression: it's pretty robust and will rival Yahoo!'s SmartView. I will write about this more extensively later.

Here's the public announcement:

Today, Google released Google Maps at, a dynamic online mapping feature that enables users in the U.S. to find location information, navigate through maps, and get directions quickly and easily. This new service is an experiment on Google Labs and features results from Google Local to offer users access to traditional business listings combined with relevant information from Google's 8 billion page web index.

Key features include:

*Easy navigation– Users can drag the map to view the adjacent parts of a map.

*Search results from Google Local– To find a wifi hot spot in a local area, users may type [wifi hot spot] and their local zip code to see wifi locations on the map. They will see phone numbers for each location appearing on the right side of the page. When users click on locations on the map, they will also find address information.

* Single search box– Users can type search terms into a single search box under the Maps tab for local search results and driving directions. For example, typing [great sushi in New York] will display great sushi restaurants located in New York. Typing [Manhattan to Brooklyn] shows directions from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

*Turn-by-turn directions– Users may type in an address and Google Maps plots a route, displaying it visually on the map itself, together with step-by-step directions for getting there (or back from there). When users click on one of these steps, they will see a magnified view of the area mentioned in the directions.

*Keyboard shortcuts– Users can use the arrow keys to pan left, right, up and down; pan wider with page up, page down, home and end keys; and zoom in and out with the (+) and (-) keys.

Google is focused on organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful, and this experiment is another step forward in helping users find the local information they need. Google's continuing commitment to local search was recently demonstrated with the addition of a link to Google Local on the Google homepage in the U.S. and Canada.

See also, Gary Price's informal review.

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