Going somewhere new is always exciting: in all the small ways that nevertheless matter, you get to feel like a different person. Who will you decide to be? It also produces the same dilemma: where will you go, and what will you do while you’re there?
Though there’s never a definitive answer to those questions — one person’s tourist trap is another person’s life-changing experience — it does help to know what your options are. And now, Google Maps is making it easier than ever to figure those options out with the release of a feature that lets you follow its top Local Guides. Though the program is currently limited to Bangkok, Delhi, London, Mexico City, New York, Osaka, San Francisco, São Paulo, and Tokyo, it means that Google is getting more serious about making its Maps a quasi-social experience. It’s an expansion of the company’s earlier efforts — last year, Google let its Android users follow businesses and locations like you would anyone else on social media.
Google describes its Local Guide program as a “global community of explorers who write reviews, share photos, answer questions, add or edit places, and check facts on Google Maps.” (Reply All’s recent episode about a Local Guide in Santa Fe, NM, has a fun exploration of how exactly the program works in practice for those users who participate.) Local Guides are the people, in other words, who can tell you how you might best experience a new place. And that’s valuable. How are you supposed to figure out who you are in a new place if you don’t know where to go?