Google has always been the caretaker
May 1, 2014 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Having taken pictures of more than 6 million miles’ worth of road, Google is more than doubling the amount of global Street View imagery by adding all of its archive photography. The company’s Google Maps Web application will now include a time machine feature where users can move a slider to see all historical images of a place. As much as possible, pictures of the same place have been aligned so they have the same perspective as one another.
posted by Room 641-A (47 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
COOL. The similar feature in Google Earth with satellite imagery is tremendously useful. I hope it includes dates as well.
posted by troika at 1:52 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Now I can study the entropic decline of my front yard.
posted by triceryclops at 1:56 PM on May 1, 2014 [19 favorites]

There's a weird glitch in the Streetview of the street outside my condo building. As you approach it, you get a shiny current view of the building as it was not very long ago but get too close and you suddenly travel back in time about 6 years to before it was built.

So this new function isn't anything new to me, is what I'm saying.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:02 PM on May 1, 2014

This is great because I can go back and find the picture of me that used to be in there. I'm very excited to remember what I looked like wearing a backpack in 2008.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:03 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Google's all about ending fights: now we can't even argue about what the bank on the corner used to be. "The shoe store!" "No I mean BEFORE that".
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:03 PM on May 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Clearly they throw out a lot of photos. My bandmate and I were outside of my apartment when the van drove by and we danced about with our (SFW) video props in hand. That event is conspicuously absent from the time machine.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:03 PM on May 1, 2014

You can tell when I bought my current car. I'm impressed that they've managed to go down my little side street four times so far. The street hasn't changed since about 1890 so there's not much difference other than the cars but I didn't realize that they re-scanned so often.
posted by octothorpe at 2:04 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Judging by the images of the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica, it looks like they had actual time travel ability as far back as 2007.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2014

That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to move the slider back and forth to see historical images of Rome compared to the present day ruins — Street View imagery only goes back eight years, at most.

Well thank goodness they clarified this. I'm sure this could have led to a lot of confusion.

Seriously, this is awesome, and really just having the dates of the StreetView imagery will be a huge help.
posted by pie ninja at 2:06 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

a few years ago, while walking around an art museum with the mom of one of my friends, we were looking at a painting of Beacon Hill from what would be The Esplanade and the Charles River, and she turned to me and said, "you work with website, yes? You should suggest to Google that they add a feature to their maps where, instead of street view you can slide the view back for days or years and see what the area looked like at a point in time, and if it predates Street View, then it would show paintings or photographs like this one."

This isn't that, but it's a very nice step in that direction.
posted by bl1nk at 2:06 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Welcome to the beginning of the time travel era...of course, going into the future only happens at normal speed.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:12 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

It terrifies me to think how much hard drive storage Google must be using to hold everything they have. Is it measured in petabytes, or exabytes?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:14 PM on May 1, 2014

Street View imagery only goes back eight years, at most.

If that's the case, then how come Google helped me find this picture of my house from 1694, eh?
posted by ambrosen at 2:15 PM on May 1, 2014

I'm envious of the indie band that writes the slightly maudlin yet soaring song that gets licensed for the ad where the time lapse shows the house as the kids grow up and move away and come back with their own kids as additions get built on the house and trees grow in the yard.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:17 PM on May 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seriously though, I hate google in so many ways, but I have to admit stuff like this is cool.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:17 PM on May 1, 2014

The Google van has only been down my street twice, and the last time was three years ago. Slackers.
posted by yoink at 2:20 PM on May 1, 2014

Obligatory snark: now I'll be able to view the evolution of delivery trucks and vans obscuring storefronts over the years.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:26 PM on May 1, 2014

I always suspected they would do this.

I was hoping to see the "before" buildings at one lot in my downtown, but the earliest picture they have is of an empty lot. Still cool, though: 2007-2012

Sunalta Station: 2009-2012

The Bow: 2007-2012
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:36 PM on May 1, 2014

drjimmy11, I'm so pregnant that your description of that commercial made me tear up.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2014 [21 favorites]

I'm guessing this only shows up in the new version of Google Maps, and not also in the Classic version?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:49 PM on May 1, 2014

Yeah, looks like new version only
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:52 PM on May 1, 2014

If I pick just the right pair of images, I can show my yard getting neater over time.
posted by pompomtom at 2:53 PM on May 1, 2014

Location necromancy is only the start. This is all the start of the ploy to fill G+ with sites for the deceased. Zombie Abe Lincoln wants to be in your contact list.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:53 PM on May 1, 2014

Wow! They managed to catch all three of my broken-down vehicles in my driveway!
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:15 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

In my hometown, I helped paint a mural when I was in 8th grade (in 1998). A couple years ago, the mural had gotten so decrepit that they painted over it. But now you can see it again!
posted by ocherdraco at 3:20 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

That was unexpectedly heartbreaking. Google has been down our street four times, both before and after my Dad died. In the earliest picture you can see the leaves I piled on the lawn, and in one of the later pictures they caught one of our neighbors outside looking directly at the camera, but there's no sign of Dad. I was hoping there'd be a light on in the window or a propped open door, some trace of him that would live in Google's archives forever. But no.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:22 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

4 St SE underpass, and district energy station: 2007-2012

1 St SE: 2007-2012

Lots of fun in a city that has changed since 2007. Probably not so much in other places.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:26 PM on May 1, 2014

Many of the places I would like to see the changes in have only been visited by google once. :(
posted by ocherdraco at 3:30 PM on May 1, 2014

I totally forgot that the Chipolte used to be Duke's Bar. No great specific loss but one more bit of the old Pittsburgh fabric changed to be another bland chain.
posted by octothorpe at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2014

Speaking of murals
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've already used this to get a screen shot of the trailer that was stolen from our property last year, soon to be on milk cartons everywhere.
posted by dhartung at 4:17 PM on May 1, 2014

This is really cool. Apparently Google has been down my block 2 more times than I knew of, and in one of the sets of photos that for some reason never made it into Street View, you can see me and my brother sitting on our front stoop.
posted by Venadium at 4:23 PM on May 1, 2014

The streetview picture shows my house the morning after dogs knocked over my garbage cans and ripped open the bags, spreading garbage all over my side yard. I've been waiting a long time for that fucking picture to disappear. Now it never will.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, eventually it will be replaced by another one as the default image. It looks like they intentionally drive around in late spring/summer when things are green and at their best.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:35 PM on May 1, 2014

In "high demand" areas, maybe, but a lot of the smaller places I care about have all or nearly all their photos in the dead of winter. (I wonder if that's an actual pattern, or just confirmation bias based on my small set of cared-for places?)
posted by ocherdraco at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2014

Not totally true, the current images for my neighborhood are all from January 2013
posted by Venadium at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2014

Cool! On NYC streets you can even see the street on a future date when everything that isn't a residential
building is a Duane Reade or a Chase bank.
posted by griphus at 4:39 PM on May 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

The scary thing is that Google lags in sheer linear distances of map data behind Nokia, and isn't even on the same graph in waypoints data collected by services like Foursquare.

Most of that is poorly clumped around the northern and western hemispheres, but there you have it.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:08 PM on May 1, 2014

Wow, they've actually come down my street twice, in 2008 and 2012. You can magically see that damned cottonwood tree disappear, and my car magically update itself from a Saturn to a Subaru.
posted by wintermind at 5:42 PM on May 1, 2014

They have never been anywhere but the highway on our island, and even then only once, and a few miles of it. I imagine for many rural or rural-ish locations, this will always be true.
posted by maxwelton at 7:19 PM on May 1, 2014

"In much the same way that 'time immemorial' referred to the 10th century, by the late 21st century, 'time before Google" referred to the time before the late 1990s when an 'Internet' company called 'The Googles' started recording everything that had ever been. The significance of this can not be understated - to this day, roads that existed in 1998 are considered to have always existed and are still referred to by historians as 'Google Streets'. Popular culture of the time refers to 'Atlas Streets' but no remains of this network can be found. Similar references to "A-Z maps" are likely to be mythical, since no references to towns called either A or Z can be found."
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 2:55 AM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, looks like Google has never been down my rural street. The last house we lived in, in a suburb of Portland, hasn't been visited in at least 6 years, which surprised me.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2014

This is dramatic when you explore some place like Joplin, Missouri before and after the tornado.

This will also be fascinating to use with Google Glass.
posted by LarryC at 10:35 AM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California. They caught the monster Canyon Fire in October 2007 and the shot from a month later is unbelievable. It also looks like they may have caught another, smaller fire in July 2012.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:11 AM on May 5, 2014

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