Last week, Google Maps debuted an interactive new Favorite Places feature that lets users explore the (you got it) favorite places of local experts around the world. Take travel advice from notables like Al Gore (who picked the Maldives as one of his favorite endangered places), Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler (suggesting Saudi Arabias Madain Saleh as a crowd-free alternative to Petra, Jordan), and Tony Hawk (letting you in on his favorite skate and ski parks in the world). In addition to dozens of bona fide-expert inputs, since Google is the champion of information democracy, essentially anyone can become a Favorite Places crackerjack. Just enter the name plus a description and photo of your favorite spot, click submit, and voila, youre a Favorite Places expert.
Taking the interactive internet mapping experience to an even higher level, as part of the new feature, Google Maps is slapping Zagat-like stickers on the windows of over 100,000 of the countrys most "googled businesses in 9,000+ cities. Each sticker has a unique QR bar code (scannable by any mobile device that has a camera and can download apps) that will, upon scanning, take you directly to the businesss Google Place Page listing offering reviews, ratings, coupons, and other useful info.