Google Maps to offer Explore functionality in direct competition for local discovery
The travel space has long been in search of a winner in the local discovery space, especially as the smartphone fuels more local and contextual interest.
Apps like Foursquare are evolving to focus more exclusively on this local discovery piece, even going so far as rebranding and redefining the company’s purpose to focus on local discovery and social travel.
Gogobot, TripAvisor, Yelp, and Facebook are all also competing to deliver the best, most personalized recommendations as a mobile user wanders the world. Gogobot delivers social recommendations, TripAdvisor pulls in social connections to fuel reviews, Yelp offers restaurants nearby, and Facebook offers a “Nearby” feature for businesses and friends on the platform.
So what about Google?
Google+ hasn’t continued its initial strong growth trajectory and hasn’t developed as a mobile-first application to take advantage of proximity awareness. Google Maps, however, has continued to be a popular product primarily used on a smartphone on the move. This means that the user is already consulting the app for destination information, and yet the app doesn’t have a clear means of exploring what’s nearby. Users can pinch and zoom to find points of interest, but they are not offered a discrete place to learn about nearby offerings.