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Google Maps is published and owned by Google, as a a way of organising the worlds information geographically.
Google Maps uses its own map data, having switched from Tele Atlas in October 2009. Google has released the product to be used for free in both private and commercial settings. It uses Mercator projection, which means it can not display the poles but allows it to display straight lines over long distances despite the curvature of the planet.
The maps API allows uses to modify the colouring and transparency of the map as well as overlay it with other data.
Lars and Jens Rasmussen are attributed with the creation of Google Maps.
Since its release in 2005, Google Maps has improved significantly, such as simplification to the application programming interface (API) to let users customise it and use it on their own sites more easily, to the addition of live traffic data for many cities in the USA including tags for accidents, roadworks and poor driving conditions. Google Maps has also been updated with the ability to give directions by car, foot and where the data is available, public transport.
Google Maps has twice seen a change of data provider, from Navteq to Teleatlas in September 2008, then to using Google's own data in October 2009.
In May 2010, version 3 of Google Maps' API was released. The update allows the API to display multiple KML layers, bike routing for some US cities and a traffic layer. It also allowed for greater visual manipulation of the map
On 25 May 2010 all of Denmark's public transport data was released on Google Maps. 
Google Maps has bought on-line maps into the public eye, and its routing functionality is used by 727,023 (0.5% of all people who visit a Google site use maps.google.com, with 145,404,655 unique visitors to Google sites each month) different people each month.
Google Maps, with the release of its API to the public has spawned many novels uses of them map data, some of the more notable ones can be found at the Google Maps Main blog.