Google Maps: Around the world and back in time

By: Loyse Burki

Google Maps, one of the most utilized tools provided by the innovation machine known as Google, was, up until very recently, used mostly for finding routes between point A and point B, or, curiously enough, out of all the places explorable through Google Maps, looking at one’s own domicile. However, through a recent update of the service, it will now be possible to retrace the evolution of said domicile, along with the locations around the world, from six years ago to the present. In fact, it is possible to look at the changes over the past six years in any location visible in Street View.

This new feature will be useful for a plethora of individuals, ranging from real estate firms and law firms to tourists trying to choose the best time of the year to visit a new city based on its appearance through the seasons displayed on the timeline feature. Vinay Shet, Google’s Street View product manager, explained how the timeline was created, stating in a blog post, “We’ve gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world.” Although this new feature is far from qualifying as one of Google’s famous moon shots such as the self driving car or Google Glasses, the Google Maps timeline will certainly bring new attention to the sometimes overlooked aspect of the web giant. However, not everyone agrees about the innovative variable in this equation. Some people believe that this new trait of the maps will be of little use to most users and will go largely ignored.  Only time will tell the success of the timeline. But for now, why not explore the earth a little more and make full use of the new feature of Google Maps? After all, six years is a long time when it comes to sights such as the construction of the new World Trade Center in New York City, or the reconstruction of Japan’s coastal regions after the tsunami and earthquake of 2011.