Due to COVID-19, much of the world has turned to the internet for work, learning, communication, and entertainment. Another area is relief and aid, with Google reporting a surge in My Maps usage.

The company launched My Maps in 2007 to let people create custom maps. Leveraging Google Maps data, there is a straightforward drag-and-drop UI to add all sorts of markers/pins, draw lines, and embed text and photos.

As a tool, it goes beyond just adding places to lists, which is the extent of what’s possible in the main Google Maps app today. Advanced features let you customize the look and type of base map, as well as import locations from spreadsheets and KML files.

You can share creations via a public URL or use Drive, with custom My Maps viewable in Google Maps. There are also options for publishing and embedding into websites.

The app’s UI on Android, iOS, and the web has not been updated in several years and an example of early Material Design. My Maps happens to have a storytelling-centered counterpart in Google Earth that allows for 3D imagery and Street View.

The surge in usage applies to both people creating and viewing My Maps. From December 2019 to April 2020, there were 1 billion more creations, edits, and views compared to the prior year, with a total of 3 billion interactions in recent months.

Several common use cases that have emerged include compiling COVID-19 testing sites, food banks, and where first responders can access childcare. Other examples that span the world include:

  • Librarians across Mississippi have teamed up to create a map of parking lot WiFi access points.
  • One book publisher in Canada has created a map of indie booksellers in Canada who are offering delivery or curbside pick-up.
  • In the Philippines, the Department of Transportation is using My Maps to map free-up hospital shuttle service routes for COVID-19 medical frontliners.
  • The National Transit Agency of Ecuador is using My Maps to help truck drivers moving food across the country find disinfection points, gas stations, mechanics and other resources to help them on their journey.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com