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New York CNN Business —  

Google Maps is making some social media-inspired updates to encourage more user-generated content in the app.

The app on Thursday introduced several new features aimed at making Google Maps more interactive, including one that makes it easier for users to share photos of locations they visit.

The changes are just the latest in a string of updates in recent months, as Google (GOOGL) looks to make Maps not just a place to go for directions, but one where people can plan where to go, communicate with local businesses, figure out how to get there, pay for parking and share about their experiences. The app also added a feature in September that shows how prevalent coronavirus is in a given area.

The efforts to increase engagement with Google Maps appears to be working: The company said Thursday that it now has 150 million “Local Guides” — users who regularly contribute reviews, photos and information on Maps — on the platform. In 2020, Local Guides added more than 8 million places to the app.

“With all the change our world saw over the past year, people are relying more than ever on high-quality, updated information about the places around them — like if a nearby restaurant is open or if a local grocery store has updated hours,” Google said in a statement, adding that it wants to, “make it easy for anyone with a Google account to contribute their local knowledge.”

Google Maps' new "photo update" feature will let users contribute snapshots of the places they visit, without having to leave a full review.
Google
Google Maps' new "photo update" feature will let users contribute snapshots of the places they visit, without having to leave a full review.

Among the new features announced Thursday is “photo updates,” which will help people get a better, more up-to-date sense of places they’re thinking of visiting; for example, they’ll be able to see if a restaurant’s outdoor seating set-up is shaded. As it rolls out in the coming weeks, people can go to the new “Updates” tab when looking at a place on the app, snap a quick photo to add and write a caption, without having to leave a full rating or review.

Google Maps is also making it easier to report road changes on the app, adding an option to “Edit the Map” that will let users correct errors, including by drawing in missing roads, renaming streets or deleting incorrect roads. The company says it will vet contributed road updates before publishing them.

To get more people to take advantage of these interactive features, Google Maps is launching a “Local Love Challenge,” encouraging Android users to contribute photos, reviews and information to the app with the goal of updating 100,000 location listings in the next month.