Google has acquired portions of a Swiss company called Endoxon in order to improve the European maps in its Google Earth PC application and Google Maps online search service.
Online maps have become extremely popular, as millions of people use them every day to obtain driving directions, find local businesses, read customer reviews, see high-definition aerial images of places and even check real-time traffic information.
Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL are all working feverishly to continually update and improve their online mapping services, which have become an essential part of local search websites, whose advertising revenue is expected to grow from $3.4 billion (£1.7bn) in 2005 to $13bn (£6.9bn) in 2010, according to The Kelsey Group.
While Google and its rivals have focused their initial efforts mostly on the US, they all want to provide comprehensive maps and local-business information globally, and Europe is certainly a priority region for them.
Endoxon, a developer of internet mapping technology based in Lucerne, Switzerland, gives Google "a dedicated team in Europe" working on online mapping, wrote John Hanke, director of Google Earth & Maps, on Monday in the company's official blog.
Google, which plans to use Endoxon's technology to enhance Google Earth and Google Maps, bought the Swiss company's internet, mapping and data processing business units, according to Endoxon's website.
Now that it is part of Google, Endoxon will stop selling its products and services, but it will fulfill its contractual obligations and commitments to existing clients.
The Endoxon units that Google didn't acquire will continue to operate as part of a new company called Mappuls. Google did not disclose what it paid for the parts of Endoxon that it bought.