Justin O’Beirne

Justin O'Beirne of San Francisco, California. Essays, projects, and contact information.

I recently noticed something interesting about Google Maps:

Google seems to intentionally deemphasize dead end streets by making them thinner and lighter than the map’s other roads. (Presumably, to deter travelers from inadvertently driving down dead end streets.)1


A few examples:



Notice the subtlety of the dead end streets in the image’s left half.

 

 

The dead end streets in the image’s center are thinner and lighter than the other roads.

 

 

Once again, the dead end streets are the least prominent parts of the road network.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

And as you zoom in on Google Maps, the dead end streets continue to be deemphasized:

Interesting, isn’t it?

It reminds me of how Google uses different label classes for its city labels. (The map’s smallest city labels are subdued, allowing the bigger cities to stand out.) In this case, Google seems to be intentionally deemphasizing dead end streets because they’re of less interest to travelers. 

 

 

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1  One of the reasons why this is so interesting is that none of the other major online maps (MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo! Maps, etc.) do this. It’s really clever and thoughtful.


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