Google has tailored its tools for a mass audience, making map mashups as easy to produce as pointing and clicking a computer mouse. The Mountain View-based company is hoping the simplicity will generate millions of highly specialized maps that can be stored in its search index.

Until now, Google's two-year-old maps had primarily been used for driving directions and finding local businesses. The more personal maps should open up new avenues as users share insights about their favorite vacation spots or a wide range of academic subjects, said Jessica Lee, product manager of Google maps.

"This is a big change," Lee said. "Even if we cut loose all our developers, we could never create maps with the same depth and quality as our users can."

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