For the past six years, Google Maps has been bringing satellite images of the Earth's surface to internet users around the globe. When Google Maps implemented its street view mode—the ability to view neighborhoods at a street level—it allowed people to tour entire neighborhoods and captured some pretty strange things in the process.
Though monumental, surface-level mapping was just the tip of the iceberg: Google Maps is beginning to roll out 3D mapping of business interiors, and there's plans to release 3D views of landmarks, museums, hotels and more.
The move to begin mapping interiors of small businesses echoes several moves Google has made to ensure that small businesses become the focal point of the company's interests. Google has begun to hold small workshops, such as this one, to get small businesses online and, more important to the company, into the Google database.
This makes these small businesses searchable on the companies' website—making Google a sort of 21st century phone book. The Google directory, however, is infinitely more powerful than any phone book ever was. In addition to displaying embedded maps, contact details, hours and customer reviews in their search terms, Google will soon be able to offer links to 3D mapping of the shop's exterior and interior.
Typically, Google Maps will be the top suggestion if the name of a company is searched on the Google search engine. Along with other listings, Google will retrieve contact and geo-locational information for the place of business. It will also feature a handful of small photos below the map.
These business photos will now, occasionally, feature the Google Pegman, which indicates that users can browse the shop or museum or landmark or place of business much like they would browse a street in street view. They'll see all 360 degrees of the interior.
The update comes just as Google Maps prepares to charge websites for heavy usage of the service. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, Google will charge any website responsible for more than 25,000 map views (or hits) per day. It also comes just days after Apple announced that they've acquired C3 Technologies, a 3D mapping company.