The Evolution of Place Pages

Making constant tweaks and adjustments to our user interfaces and overall user experience have always been the norm at Google, and you may have recently heard about our renewed effort across all Google products to make the user experience more focused, elastic and effortless. Changes have already started to appear on Google Maps, and we’ve now simplified our Place pages across desktop and mobile devices as well.
Some of the changes you’ll notice today have been made so you can quickly get a sense for what other people are saying about a place, more easily upload photos of places you’ve been (by using a more obvious “Upload a photo” button), and see reviews in a single section on the page. Since the introduction of Google Places’ local rating and review feature last fall — originally called Hotpot — we’ve heard loud and clear that reviews help you find the places that are right for you, especially when you’re able to get recommendations based on your tastes and those of your friends. So we’ve added the call-to-action “Write a review” button to the top of the Place page to encourage you to tell us what you think about places you’ve visited, while at the same time ensuring that you get personalized recommendations in return when you’re signed in to your Google account.

Based on careful thought about the future direction of Place pages, and feedback we’ve heard over the past few months, review snippets from other web sources have now been removed from Place pages. Rating and review counts reflect only those that’ve been written by fellow Google users, and as part of our continued commitment to helping you find what you want on the web, we’re continuing to provide links to other review sites so you can get a comprehensive view of locations across the globe.

Beyond today’s transition, our long-term vision for local search includes:

  • Bringing you more personalized results when you search for local places — because we understand that information from the people you know is most meaningful;
  • Integrating some of the great information that’s been buried on Place pages into your web search experience across all Google platforms;
  • Giving you more ways to rate, discover and share places you love faster and easier than ever, wherever you are, and on whichever device you choose.
So whether you’re looking for a great restaurant you haven’t yet tried, or the perfect place to buy a friend’s birthday gift, we hope you continue to find the information on Place pages useful. There have been lots of changes in the nearly two years since Place pages were introduced, and because there’s always more room for improvement, you can expect more changes to come.

Geo APIs Summer Learning Series


Google has one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of Places information, including over 50M business listings and points of interest worldwide. The Google Places API lets your applications tap into that database, to find the Places your app needs, so that users can indicate the Place they are at, or discover new Places nearby.

Following the introduction of the Places API at Google I/O last year, we worked with developers in a limited preview to understand what was needed to ensure the Places API is as powerful and easy to use as possible. In the “Connecting People with Places” session at this year’s I/O I was very happy to announce that having implemented the feedback we received during the preview, the API is now accessible to all:


The Places API is provided in two ways, a set of XML and JSON web services, and a set of corresponding classes in the Maps API v3.

The web services are ideal for mobile app developers, and can be queried from the developer’s own infrastructure, or directly from the app running on the smartphone. The Places API Search service focuses on location-based search, delivering up 20 Places in the vicinity of a user’s location. Search results can be filtered by Place name, or by one of over 90 categories, such as ‘restaurant’, ‘night_club’ or ‘spa’. The Places API Autocomplete service focuses on text based search, providing autocompletions of Places near the user as they type.

The Places API Report services also allows apps to submit new Places provided by users, which are instantly added to subsequent search results, and also delete them at a later date if required. Apps that allow users to identify the Place they are in at the time can also pass this “check-in” signal back to the Places API Check-in service which factors this real time popularity signal into the ranking of subsequent searches, so that the Places popular with users of the app are ranked higher in real time.

The Engineering Lead for the Places API, Marcelo Camelo, dove into how to get started with the Places API web services, and the structure of requests and responses in the “Location Based App Development using Google APIs” session:


For web based applications the Places API has also been integrated into the JavaScript Maps API v3. The PlacesService class provides access to Places API Search directly from the web based Maps applications, while the Autocomplete class enables a HTML text field to predict autocompletions of Places as the user types:


To use the Places API classes in your Maps API applications you simply need to request the new places library when you load the API into your web page. To use the web services, you must first create a new project in the Google APIs Console, and then enable the Places API on that project. You can then use the APIs Console key for that Project to access the Places API.

Initially your key will offer courtesy quota of 1,000 requests per day. Once you are ready to launch the next great location based app, simply “Enable billing” on the project. You will be prompted to provide credit card details, in order to verify your identity. Once you have done so, your quota will increase to 100,000 requests per day, but the API will remain free to use. Note that you may be charged if you use the same key for other APIs, which you can avoid by creating a separate project for accessing other APIs.

For more information on how to use the Places API, check out the documentation for the Search and Autocomplete web services and Maps API v3 places library. You can also discuss the API with other developers on the Google Maps API Web Services forum, and request additional features you would like to see the API offer, or report any problems you find, using the Places API section of the Google Maps API Issue Tracker.

Our launch at Google I/O this year was just the beginning of the Google Places API story. We are looking forward to bringing you many more features in the future to help you build more innovative and compelling location based applications. So do get started developing your apps, but keep an eye on this blog for more to come!


The New Google Calendar Appointment Slots

Places and similar products have slowly been moving towards becoming a transaction environment. Last November Google rolled out, on a limited basis, a hotel booking feature. In December, Bing introduced a restaurant reservation system on their Place page equivalent. This spring when Google added rich snippet events to the Places page, they integrated the ability  to easily add those events to a user’s personal calendar.

Google Calendar Appointment Slots On Monday Google rolled out appointment slots for Calendars. This feature allows you to not only publicly make your appointment slots visible to the others to see but also allows other Google Calendar users to book a segment of your time. BusinessInsider pointed out that the feature will very likely be a big hit with students looking to schedule a meeting with a teacher.

But as reader @brazil_83 pointed out to me that is likely just the beginning. He noted that it “seems like Google [is] getting close to providing scheduling for more complex activ: spa, golf, restos – anything social”.

Clearly this appointment slot feature is a critical piece of infrastructure. When viewed in light of the Places hotel bookings and the event/G calendar integration features, this puts Google one fairly short step away from adding an appointment feature on your Places page for a whole raft of business related activities from massages to scheduling your dish washer repair.

Every time a consumer touches a Place page is an opportunity for Google to insert themselves in the local sales process. This new capability, when (if?) added to Places, is one that arguably could remove friction in the local buying process, increase Google’s supply of local (time) inventory information and provide a perfect nexus for additional revenue for Google.