Google Maps' location-sharing feature is one you might actually use

Now you can let your friends know where you are when you're running late.


Google has been busy recently beefing up Maps. Beyond just using it for turn-by-turn directions, you can now use Maps to remember where you parked, find reviews for nearby restaurants and avoid heavily congested areas. Today, the search giant has revealed yet another Maps feature: location-sharing. With just a few taps in the app, you can now share your real-time location with friends and family. It's a feature that can be handy when you're running late to an appointment or if you simply want to keep your buddies abreast of your whereabouts.

Location-sharing isn't a new concept; you can already do this with apps like Waze and Glympse (And yes, those who remember Latitude know this feature existed there as well). But because Maps is already ubiquitous and used on many smartphones, the barrier for entry is much lower. Sharing your location on Maps is pretty easy too; simply tap the blue dot that represents you and then tap "Share location." (This option is also accessible via a side menu.) You can then specify with whom you want to share your whereabouts, and for how long -- time-based sharing can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 days.

After you hit "Share," you'll be able to see who you're sharing your location with on the app and, as you might expect, your friends will see your dot on their app too. You'll also see an icon above the compass on your map to remind you that you're sharing your location. Once your friend sees that you're sharing your location, they can choose to reciprocate and share their whereabouts back to you too. Or, they can also bring up directions on how to get to where you are.

Alternately, you can choose "Until you turn it off," which has no time period attached. It's an option that's better suited to close friends or family members -- basically, someone with whom you wouldn't mind sharing where you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On top of seeing this information every time you launch the app, Google says you'll also get an email reminder every few weeks to let you know that, hey, you're still sharing your location with this person, so make sure it's someone you trust.

If the person you're sharing with is not in your Google contacts, you can also copy and paste a link and share it to them via text or email. However, these links are restricted to time-based location-sharing for safety reasons; the links will expire once the time is up.

There are other features too. Say you have a friend who's a bit of the oversharing type, and you have no desire to see where he or she is all the time. If you want, you can also "hide" them from the map and you won't be able to see them. You can easily "unhide" them again if you want to know where they are. Also, if you're on Android, you can add someone's location pin to your home screen, to make it easier to keep tabs on them.

Aside from your location, you can also share your trip progress by selecting "Share trip." This essentially lets your friends know your expected arrival time and, just to let them know you're not lying about traffic, they can follow you on your journey. Once you arrive, sharing will automatically end.

There's some measure of risk when sharing your location, so Google took pains to say that you should only do it with someone you trust. Additionally, you always have the option of ending sharing whenever you want, and you'll always know when you're sharing your location with someone. "The feature is much more biased towards temporary time sharing," says Jen Fitzpatrick, the Vice President of Google Maps, adding that it's the default option in the app.

"Our goal is guiding and assisting users in the real world everyday," she says. "We're stretching people's perceptions on what maps can do for them, and the real-world tasks that we can help them with."

Google will be rolling out this feature to Maps worldwide over the next few weeks, on both Android and iOS.