Google updates the Maps Explore Nearby feature -- for some users

New feature helps Google Maps users find nearby nightclubs at 10 p.m. or coffee shops at 8 a.m.

Google is trying out a new Google Maps feature said to provide people with more information about their destinations, or about nearby points of interest, reports say.

Google Explore Nearby
Some users are seeing an updated Explore Nearby feature in Google Maps. (Image: Derek Traini)

In recent days, some Google Maps users have seen an upgrade to the Explore Nearby feature that provides more information that's specific even to the time of day. For instance, at 8 a.m., Google Maps will show information about nearby coffee shops or breakfast cafes, while at 10 p.m., users will get information about clubs and bars.

The update started rolling out to some Google Maps users last week.

A few users reported seeing the update in response to questions posted last weekend on Google+ by Artem Russakovskii, founder of Android Police.

"Yeah I got it," Andrew Tomkins responded. "It shows you points of interest, business and local facilities/amenities near to your location."

Derek Traini, who posted screen grabs of the new feature, wrote, "It seems much more useful now that you can narrow down results. It is, however, very helpful when you are on vacation! That's a small use case, but I do think its much more useful now."

Android Police initially broke the story of the updated Web app. It noted that the new features give users "much more fine-grained control of location-based suggestions."

Google has not responded to a request for comment on the update. It's unclear if or when the upgrade will be rolled out to all users.

"It's a good move," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "Google users get better, more predictive information. This seems like Phase One but it's a start. The next phase would be show me a bar where three of my Google+ contacts are or show me breakfast places that are closest to the ones I've checked into before."

He added that Google has a lot of data and this is one good way to put it to use.

"Contextual information, I believe, is the next big thing, and no one has more data to refine context than Google does," Kerravala said. "Google gets better utilization since users see something on Google they don't on see on Yahoo or Bing. And it can drive more accurate ads. For example, if you're a bar, why advertise at 8 a.m.?"

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter, at @sgaudin, and on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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