Sharing a link from Apple's new Maps application in iOS 6 automatically forwards Mac and PC users to Google Maps, but the origin URL of "maps.apple.com" hints that Apple Maps could come to non-iOS devices in the future and compete with Google Maps on a wider scale.
By using the URL maps.apple.com when sharing a location from iOS 6 Maps, Apple can automatically launch the native Maps application for other iOS 6 users. But for those on another device, like a Mac or Windows PC, maps.apple.com is currently inaccessible.
Instead, for those on traditional computers, links beginning with maps.apple.com automatically forward to maps.google.com. In fact, this works even with broken links: Visiting "maps.apple.com/test" automatically forwards to "maps.google.com/test".
Within the Maps application, locations can be shared via e-mail, text message, Twitter or Facebook. Opening a link on an iOS 6 device launches Apple Maps, while accessing the link on a non-iOS device redirects from maps.apple.com to maps.google.com.
For now, there are no Apple Maps on the Web that can be accessed by a browser. But considering Apple is already using the URL maps.apple.com, it could be as simple as flipping a switch for the company to begin offering its own browser-based competitor to Google Maps.
Apple previously made a similar adjustment in 2009 when it launched the browser-based iTunes Preview. Links to some content in the iTunes Store previously forced users to launch the iTunes application, but with iTunes Preview, the content can be viewed right within a browser.
iTunes Preview was enhanced again in 2010 to include iOS App Store content, while song samples were also made available to stream from within any Web browser. Links to the iTunes Store begin with the URL "itunes.apple.com".
While links with anything after the root maps.apple.com currently forward to maps.google.com, simply entering maps.apple.com into a browser redirects users to apple.com/ios/maps, which highlights features of the new Maps application in iOS 6.