Google Maps 'Favorite Places' Unveiled: Local Businesses Welcomed to the Interwebz

Mayor Gavin Newsom: bears striking resemblance to Will Arnett
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Google Maps
unveiled their latest project called "Favorite Places" this afternoon at a press conference/meet and greet/smorgasbord inside City Hall. Local business owners, members of the press, and Mayor Gavin Newsom mingled, networked, and ate cupcakes before and after a brief presentation outlining the philosophy and technology behind the new Google venture.

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From what I could gather when I wasn't stuffing my face with Google cupcakes, "Favorite Places" is an attempt to make Google Maps more accessible to the everyday user, to the traveler, and a boon to the local business scene.

"Favorite Places" (according to the Google Web site -- which, heh, I totally Googled) enables users to "explore the favorite places of local experts from cities around the world. Find out where they like to go, and why, from their own perspectives." For example, here are the favorite places of Digg founder Kevin Rose:
Favorite Places of Kevin Rose: the more you know
I'm a regular user of (I used it to find the press conference AND a Starbucks with WiFi nearby). I'm happy to see the city and Google partnering to help small business owners realize how easy it can be to use, Maps, and other services like Yelp (which harnesses user-generated content to promote your business for you) and CitySearch (which does much the same thing) to advertise and increase their customer traffic. And by making Google Maps "sexier" (Newsom plus cupcakes equals SEXIER) through the support of local celebs, "Favorite Places" will hopefully stimulate consumer spending within local communities.

Either way, free cupcakes!
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