Google has released a new Google Maps service via its Google Labs site. Covering the United States, it allows you to drag maps around to find a new location, rather than the usual method of clicking to recenter and reload a page.
Once you've selected an area, you can then keyword search to make local information appear on the map. For pizza places on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, it worked pretty well. For apartment rentals, the map suddenly zoomed out from a scale of about 1 mile to 50 miles. But zooming back helped to show places I knew should be listed.
To do the searches, I found the area I was interested in, then used the search box above the map. A Local Search link above the map can also be selected. Doing that will let you specifically say to search the map below or you can enter a new city and/or search location. A Directions link brings up two boxes allowing you to enter a starting and ending address to generate driving directions, in the map and with turn-by-turn guidance.
On the Google Maps home page, you'll also find boxes to generate directions on the right-hand side of the page, as well as boxes letting you locate a local business or zoom directly to a location.
Google Maps doesn't offer traffic information, as was recently added to Yahoo Maps. See Yahoo Offers Real-Time Traffic Reports for more about that. Yahoo Maps vs. MapQuest looks at an LA Times article on Yahoo's own work to further develop its own mapping system. And from Chris Sherman, Yahoo Enhances Local Search with Maps looks at how Yahoo Maps allows for local information to be added to Yahoo Maps.A Few Minutes With Google Maps