Google, apparently not challenged enough by their project to cure death, has just added a new feature to Google Maps that is now accessible to the public: time travel. The internet giant, after having mapped out most of the surface of the Earth, not to mention satellite views, has begun showing views of the past on its mapping site this past Wednesday.
Users on Google Street View can now go back to see how a place has changed over the course of several years. The photos included in the time traveling feature include all of the ones taken since Google started sending out teams to take street view pictures. By looking on Street View Imagery in Google Maps for desktop, with the new added time travel feature, a viewer can go all the way back seven years, to the year to 2007, to see how a particular place has evolved. This is done by clicking the clock that appears in the upper left-hand area of the Google Street View Image. The person viewing can then slide through time to see the area they are looking at in past years.
The feature, while not enabling users to see major changes in the Earth’s landscape, does however enables them to see changes in a minor landscape or area, mainly architectural developments. For example, a viewer could look at the rise and fall of buildings and houses, remodelings, skyscrapers and shops going up, etc. Small landscape changes might include the growth of trees and bushes, erosion on beaches, and the seasonal color changes, perhaps in a forest or on a road. The time traveling maps can also work as an educational tool. For example, the devastation caused by the earthquakes and tsunamis in other countries in recent years can be easy to view this way.
It has only been two days since the new Google Maps time travel feature was added, but one issue that has already been brought up regarding Google’s new addition is that it may be violating some privacy issues. This is not the first time Google has faced this problem. Privacy has also been an issue for some of Google’s other features, in particular its search engine, where it was revealed that it tracks what people are looking up. As for Google Maps, however, arguments against this feature are already beginning to surface that this is just an easy way for Google to use and organize the images they use on the site that have been taken by their photographers without permission from people. Google Maps has been subject to much scrutiny for displaying pictures publicly of people’s houses, cars, etc., without their approval. Meanwhile, as this new feature is explored by users, Google is undoubtedly already moving on to its next remarkable project. Aside from announcing last September that they have a plan in the works to cure death, the company has expanded in the last couple of years to virtually take over the internet, with Gmail, Google Plus, YouTube, and Google Hangouts all becoming a massive means of virtual communication.
By Laura Clark