Google Street View is a 21st-century miracle

Google Street View is ten years old this year, and it’s safe to say that in its short life it’s covered more of the world than I’m ever likely to – even if I were to resign now and start walking.

Google Street View is a 21st-century miracle

But you don’t really appreciate how extensive it is until you take a good look at the map at the top of the page. That’s where we are in terms of Street View Coverage, as of right now. You can visit Google’s own page and zoom around to your heart’s content if you like, but if you fancy a tour guide, here are a few things I found interesting.

The first thing to realise is that for some reason, Google has used a really thick line for a map this scale, as you discoverer when you zoom in. As a rule of thumb, built-up areas are really well covered, like London:map_of_the_week_london

While areas without streets, such as the Nevada desert, don’t have much going on.map_of_the_week_nevada

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. As you can see above, Africa’s coverage is pretty patchy – even in areas where it does offer some support, it’s often limited to only the landmarks.map_of_the_week_-_patchy_africa

South Africa, on the other hand, has coverage that’s not too far removed from the UK. That’s because when Google Street View began work in Africa in 2009, South Africa was its first port of call.map_of_the_week_south_africa

More African coverage is planned for this year (Nigeria and Tunisia will soon be introduced apparently), but it’s safe to say it’s some way away from being as well represented as Europe.

Well, almost all of Europe.map_of_the_week_germany

What’s going on here? That seems to date back to German concerns about privacy. Although the photography of houses and streets wasn’t illegal, the country found that Google was also collecting personal online data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, leading to a $189,225 fine for the search giant. While Google’s Street View page says that its cars will be returning to the country this year, the Google Watch Blog says that the photos are to check the existing algorithms and are unlikely to be published.

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