Google finds its map service

Search giant offers a few twists on traditional mapping products--by letting people click and drag maps, for example. Images: Google maps to go

In its latest play in the ongoing search wars, Google on Tuesday quietly launched a beta site for a new map service.

Google Maps offers maps, driving directions and the ability to search for local businesses. The search giant appears to be working with TeleAtlas for the mapping products. Neither Google nor TeleAtlas could be reached for comment.

The service offers a few tweaks to standard mapping products. Someone using the service can click and drag the maps, instead of having to click and reload, for example, and magnified views of specific spots pop up in bubbles. The new map service supports Internet Explorer and Mozilla browsers. It covers the United States, Puerto Rico and parts of Canada.

The ongoing search battles between Google and companies like Yahoo and Microsoft have led to new features and enhancements coming out almost weekly. Localization and mapping products have been a particular focus because they're popular with advertisers.

Even has gotten into the game, offering a service through its search unit that shows digital photos of storefronts in its U.S. business listings.

Google had already been experimenting with mapping products. It recently bought satellite imaging company Keyhole, which makes software that lets Internet users view geographic images collected from satellites and airplanes.

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