Customized Driving Directions
Google Maps lets you drag and drop driving directions for any route to customize your travel. You can also view traffic data while you do this, so you can plan a route over less busy streets. If you happen to know a road is under construction, you can also easily drag your route to avoid this.
The printable instructions are updated with your new route, along with updated distance and driving time estimates.
This feature is extremely powerful, and sometimes a little difficult to use. It's easy to accidentally drag the new route to back over itself or drive in loops. If you make a mistake, you need to use the back arrow on your browser to undo it, which may not be intuitive for some users. In spite of the occasional glitch, this is probably one of the best new features to ever happen to Internet driving directions.
Where Google Maps Excels
Google Maps opens with a map of the US, unless you've saved your default location. You can start by searching for keywords, or just explore. The simple, uncluttered Google interface is also a strong point for Google Maps.
Make Your Own MapsUsers can add their own content to maps through the My Maps button. You can add custom made content modules, like local gas prices, Web cam photos, or distance measurements. Modules are similar to Google Gadgets for iGoogle or featured layers for Google Earth.
You can also create your own content overlays and either publicly publish them or share them with select friends. Creating a custom map could be a way to give driving directions to a hard to reach house or add additional information to a commercial building's campus.
Google is in the process of acquiring Panoramio, which lets you store and display photos based on the geographic location in which the pictures were taken. You can then view these photos in Google Maps. Google has also incorporated this tool into Picasa Web Albums.
Google Maps has a great, clean interface, and the mash-ups are a lot of fun. It's easy to switch from a Google search to find a store or location in Google Maps. Google Street View is sometimes creepy but always fascinating, and the ability to easily plot alternate routes turns Google Maps into a home run.