Robert_Charlton - 9:11 am on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)
I'm just noticing icons, similar in style to those you see on freeway exit signs, identifying various types of business and services, now appearing on Google Local maps. There are name identifications along with the icons.
More icons appear as you zoom in. When the map scale (in the lower left) reads 2000 ft, I'm seeing a bed icon for a local resort hotel; and some tree icons in the green areas indicating parks. In part, the scale at which the icons appear depends on the size/ importance/ popularity of the business and the space available on the map. Also, at 2000 ft, a 35mm movie film icon appears at the site of a large and popular movie theater.
At 1000 ft, knife and fork icons show up for several high-reputation restaurants; a pair of silhouetted kids appears at the locations of various elementary schools; and a shopping cart appears with the name of a particularly popular supermarket. Some other supermarkets (physically larger but less popular) are not identified.
At 500 ft, lots of businesses and services start showing up... many more knife and fork icons (for delis and bakeries as well as restaurants); coffee cups for cafes and coffee shops; martini glasses for pubs etc.
At 200 ft, envelope icons appear to indicate post offices. At 100 ft, dollar signs pop on for ATMs and banks; there are several icons for various business types; and doctors get red medical bags marked with white crosses... etc etc. At 50 ft, I see an insurance company also with a dollar sign icon. I'm thinking that someone must have had a lot of fun designing these icons, but a lot of thought clearly went into the system.
Particularly interesting is the granularity of the icons in relation to business types. Google's clearly using some sort of a taxonomy here... the dollar sign is a good tipoff. It's hard to say how precise they're trying to get with their classifications, but I would assume they're not being unnecessarily sloppy.
These icons, btw, don't link to the Google Local business description pages, at least not now. They just indicate what's there.