Saturday, May 30, 2009

Google Maps and Street View

I have a good friend from B-school whose name shall go unmentioned. This person hates Google, swears by it, so I've dedicated this post to him.

I'm a big fan of Google Maps, given that it seems robust and much better than Yahoo maps, and god forbid Mapquest. If you are still using Mapquest, do yourself a favor and stop.

Google Maps is on my Blackberry, and the GPS function is phenomenal. I have used it on several occasions, and am glad that I didn't spend the $5,000 to get a GPS mounted into the car as an option when I can get it on my phone. One thing I had always wondered is how the street views are generated on Google maps...Below is an image of this Streetview, that gives you an actual view of the street you may want to navigate.

Well if you search a bit, you can see that the street views are generated with cars that have cameras mounted on their roofs. It's fairly amazing, but one thing should occur to you when you see this. If the government was doing this, would you think the technology is so cool?

Makes you think, and reminds me of the "law of unintended consequences." Google is a fascinating technology with endless potential really. But with great power comes great responsibility, someone once said. Most often you might think of these words in the context of "stem cell research" or "nuclear power" but sometimes the most disruptive, potentially devastating technology can seem as innocuous as an internet map that is a huge improvement over the last generation of web-based map technology.

If nothing else, it makes you stop and think. But if you've got nothing to hide, what's the fuss? I am personally of the opinion that there are too many people on the planet, so any deterrence is fine with me if it makes folks think before they act.

Links to Google Streetview Controversy here, and here

Wikipedia entry on Google Streetview here

Video of Streetview Car in action