Screencap of 'Places' search on GoogleEnlarge Photo
Pundits have said it for years, but the chorus has grown louder in recent months: geolocation is the biggest trend since social networking.
If you own a smartphone you probably already use geolocation on a daily basis through apps like Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. Now, Google has put it front and center for everyone by including "Places" as an official search result category.
Of course, Google has been doing this informally for some time. If you've searched for "Trader Joes" or "Pinkberry", among the first few returns you've probably seen a map tagged with relevant local listings. But this new development from Mountain View is slightly different: like News, Blogs, and Images, Places is now its own distinct category, which you can use to refine your Google search.
Places is different from Maps, which simply relies on Google's database of buildings and byways. Places, as most business owners know, is built on a database of actual places -- generally business listings, which are controlled and updated by the businesses themselves.
What this means for drivers is the ability to track down a location faster and easier. Search for "Restoration Hardware", for example, or "American Apparel" and your destination of choice should pop up front and center, without you having to sift through Google Maps to find it. And of course, if you own an OnStar-equipped vehicle, you can send your destination right to the car.
This is great news for drivers of all ages -- though maybe not so good for telematics manufacturers. TomTom, if you're reading this: we still love the Yoda voice kit!