Its so far been a one-colored balloon world for the bevy of modern-day combination mapping, localized search and shopping features.
But now comes Google Inc.s blue balloon, and a new twist on mapvertising.
Balloons are a graphical element commonly found on Internet-based mapping features.
They are used to mark the known street address of any of the search results listed alongside the map. They also can be clicked on, thereby providing more detailed information about the result.
The balloons are also placeholders for advertising. But to date, technologist David Galbraith said those dabbling in mapvertising, namely Yahoo Inc., use the same color balloons to denote both paid listings and the ones resulting from the engines Web technology.
Now Google is experimenting with marking the paid listings with one color, and the more natural-occurring ones with another.
Galbraith says that while its only a cosmetic change, its an exceedingly important one that could usher in a new more prosperous era for advertising on maps.
"Googles product separates church and state--red balloons for algorithmic and blue for paid placement," he wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "This may not seem much of a deal; however, search engines used to blend in ads in the results, but advertising around search really took off with clearly separated ads."
Internet search companies, including MSN, Yahoo or Google, derive all of their revenues from selling advertisements alongside search results, and competitive forces are such that each must continually improve the results and the audience their advertisers get.
The work has led to breakthroughs unheard of in traditional advertising circles.
AdCenter, for instance, allows companies to target people based on their age, gender or location.
It has also generated high-profile acquisitions, such as Googles recent purchase of a radio advertising specialist and a minority stake in online portal America Online.
Galbraith was one of the first to spot Googles new blue balloons.
A Google spokesperson confirmed that it is conducting a limited test of the blue balloons, but would not confirm or comment upon any of the details Galbraith reveals at www.davidgalbraith.org.
Google also did not expand on a very general written statement it provided following an inquiry into Galbraiths findings.
"As part of our continuing effort to provide a positive advertising experience for users and advertisers, we are always exploring ways to improve the way we display ads," Google wrote.