But not only that, Google’s “Areas of Interest” (“AOIs”) are much more detailed than Annechino’s and Cheng’s corridors—notice that they have very specific and granular shapes: Where are these shapes coming from?
Google has said surprisingly little about how it’s making AOIs—just that they’re generated using an “algorithmic process” that identifies “areas with the highest concentrations of restaurants, bars and shops”. Zooming in to get a closer look, the AOI shapes fade out just as buildings begin appearing on the map...
” But the map isn’t always the territory, and the locations of these corridors aren’t immediately obvious on most online maps.
Up until last year, this was even true of Google Maps. Patricia’s Green (the park from “A Year of Google & Apple Maps”) actually sits along one of these commercial corridors in San Francisco, the Hayes Street corridor: Notice that it isn’t until z18—one of Google’s very last zooms—that we begin seeing businesses clustered along Hayes Street.
But if we had looked at this same area just a couple years ago, we wouldn’t have seen any buildings on Google’s map. So why was Google quietly adding all of this detail to a town it had never bothered to Street View?
The buildings are a new thing, and I’ve been watching Google gradually add them over the past year: Again, this isn’t some big, bustling city, like San Francisco or New York or even Naperville. I started looking at other towns nearby, and Google had buildings in all of them too.But this still doesn’t explain the detailed shapes. The orange buildings are clearly giving the AOI its jagged shape. All of Google Maps’s buildings were grey until the day that AOIs were introduced in July 2016.Businesses are shown as circular icons, but AOIs aren’t circular. That day, some of Google Maps’s buildings turned orange: This suggests that Google took its buildings and crunched them against its places.And these “main drags” or “commercial corridors” act as destinations, attracting people from other parts of the city.Of course, these “commercial corridors” aren’t just a San Francisco thing—almost every city has them.But perhaps the biggest difference is the building footprints: Google seems to have them all, while Apple doesn’t have any.But it’s not just Apple—no one else seems to have them either: Only Google has buildings here. roads that Google hasn’t Street View’d: Street View vehicles once drove across the main routes nine years ago—but they never returned to capture the rest.In other words, Google appears to be creating these orange buildings by matching its building and place datasets together: But what’s most interesting is that Google’s building and place data are themselves extracted from other Google Maps features.As we saw earlier, Google’s buildings are created out of the imagery it gathers for its Satellite View: With “Areas of Interest”, Google has a feature that Apple doesn’t have.Here’s one ten times smaller than mine, a town of 1,000: Sometime between now and then, their detail and coverage dramatically increased. Browsing through Google’s old press releases, it appears that Google added the first 1,000 of these detailed buildings back in 2012: Most of these 1,000 buildings were landmarks, like the Florence’s Cathedral and the Sydney Opera House.But just a few months later, this initial trickle of buildings suddenly became a deluge as Google started adding whole metro areas: But what’s most interesting is how fast Google is making these buildings.