Google has opened up the new version of Google Maps to anyone who wants to give it a try — no invite is needed. The company shared the news via Twitter this afternoon.
First announced at the Google I/O conference in May, the new Google Maps was initially available only to a select group of users that Google chose via an invite process. Invites aren’t needed anymore, but you still do need to opt-in by visiting www.google.com/maps/about/explore/.
If you start using it, you’ll find a more immersive experience. The map fills your browser screen and business listings — formerly separated in a separate column on the left of the map — now appear right on the map itself.
Despite the wider rollout, the new Google Maps still appears to be very much a beta product. For example, if you click on “My Places” from the settings tab in the upper right, you’ll end up on a page that looks like the old/current Google Maps. There are other features from the current version of Google Maps that are missing in the new Maps, too. And I’ve seen numerous mentions in my Twitter feed that many find it to be slow.
This probably explains why Google chose to share the wider rollout via tweet, rather than making an announcement on one of the company blogs.
Postscript: Google also made its announcement on Google+, where it also confirmed that the new Google Maps is still in preview (beta) mode with improvements to be made: “We’re listening and continuing to make the experience even better.”