After week of experimenting with a new interface, Google Maps has officially announced its release into the wild. They are calling it the widget and it replaces the ugly white buttons that used to allow you to toggle between map and satellite views.
While the new view is certainly much more hip looking than its predecessor, the new widget allows you to view multiple layers, bringing the Web interface inline with what their mobile app already had.
In their blog post, the Maps team give a nifty example of how a typical user would use the new features to add layers. The example walks a typical user from home to a theater, using layers to help get there.
If you have never used layers in Google Maps before, they are most useful and now easier to use. By clicking options in the widget you can turn on options.
In the example above, I have turned on layers showing traffic information and the location of gas stations in the area. I also have a layer showing places to pick up a cup of coffee. However, this layer is turned off. If this were a map with driving directions, my path would also be highlighted so I can find the locations I needed and traffic information along my route.
After the changes Google properties have been making, this is likely not the last we will hear from the Maps team this year. Look for more layers to come to the widget soon.