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Google opens Maps' new look for all

After spending three-quarters of a year in public preview, Google decides it's time for the rest of the world to start using the new Google Maps interface.

Google Maps now lets you conduct less-specific searches, such as for coffee shops, and it has better reviews integration thanks to Zagat.

Google will begin pushing out the new look for its popular Google Maps service to all desktop Maps users, the company said Wednesday.

The new interface debuted at last May's Google I/O conference, with Google describing it then as more immersive and social.

"It's simple and powerful. The map is the user interface," Google's Bernhard Seefeld said during the show.

In the months since then, Google has continued to tweak the new Maps. You can now conduct searches directly in Maps, get real-time traffic reports for faster commuting, view your travel itinerary, read and write reviews thanks to Zagat integration, and view full-color location photos in a smoother manner.

Google did acknowledge in the post that the publicly available preview encountered what it called "bumps," that users described less-charitably as serious problems involving site load times and missing features. In brief testing of the new Google Maps site in Chrome and Firefox, it appeared to load smoothly -- a marked difference from its performance immediately after the preview became available.