Google gets so much press for and use of its free products that it's easy to overlook that most of them are still in beta, the testing phase. Presto, the beta label disappeared overnight from the fabled Google Maps, now called Google Local.
Google Local has a new a split-screen layout, with directory listings on the left and maps or satellite views on the right. Google hopes that it can finance its freebies by linking maps with ad-laced local search, à la Yahoo Maps. Microsoft is also scrambling to profit from local search.
Such directories are most relevant when they adapt through the tinkering of users. Yet to the horror of people who have grown to rely on hacks of Google Maps, some of the dozens of mash-ups, such as one of the New York City subway, suddenly aren't working anymore, says the Google Maps Mania blog.