I badly want to jump onto the bash Google bandwagon with all of the other contrarians, but I just can’t seem to do it. Today I heard that Google had launched a mapping service, and I thought to myself, how much better could Google Maps be than Yahoo Maps, or MapQuest, or any of the other mapping services out there? Well, it turns out that Google Maps is much, much better than any mapping service I’ve ever used.

The number one hook is draggable maps. You can find an address and seamlessly drag your way to your destination without any obvious trips back to the Web server. I was ready to declare this the most innovative and clever use of Flash I’d ever seen until I viewed the source code for the page and started ripping it apart. Because it’s not Flash, it’s just HTML. It’s the most byzantine and complex HTML you’ve ever seen, but it’s HTML (and JavaScript, naturally). Once again, Google proves that the barrier between Web applications and desktop applications is fuzzier than you’d imagine, at least if you have the coding chops.

The little touches are worth mentioning as well. Google has done some image processing on the maps to make the anti-aliased and pleasant to look at. The way locations are marked on the map and highlighted is impressive as well. And if you really want to be blown away, try the Print button. Unlike most sites, you aren’t taken to a stripped down page, instead your browser’s Print dialog just pops up. Out comes a printer friendly version of the map you’re currently looking at, all thanks to the miracle of CSS. If you’re serious about creating user interfaces using a Web browser, I’d recommend that you polish your résumé and get hired at Google, the stuff they’re doing right now is light years ahead of everyone else I can think of. First with Gmail, and now with Google Maps, it’s like Google is taking stuff you see in the most wild, showy demos and turning it into Web applications used by millions of people. I’m floored.