Google has created a real-time viewer for Google Maps that allows users to watch as other users make changes to locations on the maps.

Google began allowing its users to edit locations on Google Maps in November as part of an effort to ensure that homes and businesses are marked in the correct location. While Google restricted access to some listings like hospitals, government buildings and businesses whose listings have been sited through Google's Local Business centre, other users could move arrows marking locations. Some edits such as moving a marker more than 200 yards from its original location require a moderator's approval before they show up on Google.

The new viewer lets users "just sit back and watch the world's information improving bit by bit, edit by edit", said Google Maps software engineer Charles Spirakis. "I warn you, though, it's highly addictive (almost as addictive as helping make the improvements yourself!)."

Adam Ostrow, a blogger at Mashable, wrote that Google Maps is evolving to become Google's best homegrown social product.

"Although more of a 'that's cool' feature than something incredibly useful, the visualisation does highlight the growing importance of social features in Google Maps," Ostrow said. "They've also recently released collaborative maps, community maps and, in Google Earth, you can now see geo-tagged YouTube videos."

Ostrow said that Google's efforts to ramp up Google Maps seem to be paying off, citing a Hitwise report showing that Google is quickly narrowing the gap between its traffic and that of MapQuest. While 426 percent more users visited MapQuest than Google Maps in 2006, the lead was cut significantly last year as MapQuest attracted only 126 percent more traffic than Google Maps.