Google on Thursday announced a brand new Google Maps feature that will provide an additional layer of utility to the world’s most popular mapping app. Starting with Android, Google Maps users will be able to share precise locations on the map by assigning a unique digital address to any place. The feature is intended to offer an address to people who don’t actually have one, or to people who have an address that’s tough to find. But it might come in handy in additional situations as well.
As you’ll see in the animations below, the so-called Plus Codes look like a meaningless association of letters and numbers, or strange postal codes, if you will. But they’re based on the actual latitude and longitude of a location and can be used to identify any spot that can be accessed in Google Maps, “from a rural home out on a prairie to a small shop stall on a nameless street.”
Google noted in an announcement that more than 2 billion people either lack a physical address or have an address that isn’t easy to locate. That’s where the Plus Codes will come in handy, and it’s an open-source project that Google first announced a few years ago. The Google Maps integration will increase the popularity of Plus Codes, allowing users to actually create their own codes with a simple tap of a button.
You’ll have to tap the blue dot that identifies you inside Google Maps to get a Plus Code for your exact location. That location can then be shared with other people. Also, by tapping and holding the map to drop a pin at a location, you’ll be able to find out the Plus Code for that spot.
The Plus Codes are unique and they’ll show up in Google Search and Maps, so it would be easy to access any one of these locations at any point in time. “They look like a regular address, but with a shortcode where a street name or number would be,” Google says. Like so: FWM8+V9, Ibadan, Nigeria.
That address doesn’t roll off the tongue, but Plus Codes could be helpful in emergency situations where precise location information is crucial, especially if traditional addresses aren’t available. They could also come in handy when traveling to new places and having to set new meeting points that don’t involve sharing a user’s location or understanding and remembering the local street names.
Most people might not have a need for Plus Codes immediately, but this novel way of creating unique addresses for every place on Earth could still be useful down the line. It’s unclear whether Plus Codes can be used for deliveries anytime soon or if they’re acceptable to use for more trivial things, like ordering goods online.
Plus Codes will be available in the nest version of Google Maps on Android in the coming weeks. It’s likely that the iPhone and desktop versions of Google Maps will also get Plus Codes in the future, although Google hasn’t made any additional announcements.