A Shift in Online Map Searching

“When I stated operating this site in 1997, the most common question I received was related to locating a place on the planet,” writes About.com’s Matt Rosenberg. No more:

Today, site like Google Maps and software like Google Earth have changed the way we find geographic information online. I can’t remember the last time someone emailed me asking for help finding a place. I expect that these people today simply search for the place name themselves. Maybe they start with Google and if the place name was spelled incorrectly, Google provides them with the correct spelling. The search results provide them with a map, images, and an extensive Wikipedia article about the place in question.

I wonder. I’ve gotten a lot of questions asking for maps of a location myself, but it hasn’t occurred to me to pay attention to the kind of trend Matt describes. I still get questions, but they’re more often about a certain kind of map, a map from a certain period, or a specific map being sought. Again, I can’t speak to trends, but I doubt that I have had to field a significant number of queries that could be answered by a Google search since Katrina — and that was a special case.

Are people getting more familiar and comfortable with online mapping?