- 19 Mar 09, 14:04 GMT
I'm at a conference today on the future of the media as we navigate the deepest recession any of us in this industry can remember - so as you can imagine the room is full of some very worried looking people. The most cheerful among them is the brand new boss of Google UK, Matt Brittin.
He's plenty of reasons to be happy. After all he has just taken over at what must be Britain's most powerful - or at least richest - media business, which overtook ITV as the biggest advertising earner last year. And despite the various concerns about Google's growing power which I outlined on this blog earlier this week, the business continues to churn out new products which draw an even bigger audience to its site.
Today's effort is Street View, the Google Maps add-on service which started in the US and now gives a street level view of 25 major cities in the UK.
It's one of those ideas that goes "viral" very quickly - I've been getting messages all morning from people who've been checking out what their house or street looks like - or at least how it appeared when Google's Street View cars combed their area last year.
Finally, I couldn't resist having a go myself - and was somewhat dismayed to find that the folks from Google had dropped by on the very day I'd put the rubbish and recycling out, and just a couple of days before my herculean efforts to tidy the front garden.
Now this is all good fun but it also raises a couple of questions. Such as what does this mean for our privacy - and what does Google hope to achieve with street View?
Matt Brittin told the Changing Media conference that the whole privacy issue had been sorted, with the Information Commissioner giving his blessing to the project, and a big effort by Google to "blob" any faces or car number-plates caught by its cameras.
He also promised that anyone who is unhappy to have their home featured in Street View will be able to get in touch and have it removed.
Mind you, that raises the prospect of streets pockmarked with blurry gaps where homeowners have objected - surely that will only make them even more conspicuous?
I think the privacy row will die down - after all Street View has been introduced elsewhere without much bother - but then there'll be more questions about what exactly the product is for.
After the initial interest when we all check out our streets, the traffic will probably die down - have you used Google Earth much lately? But Google is hoping that its new product may be particularly attractive on mobile phones as a navigational tool.
And let's not forget that the whole search business is all about generating advertising revenue - so presumably the hunt will be on for ways to monetise Street View.
Location-based services - in other words advertising for products based on knowledge of where you are - are all the rage now.
Does that mean adverts will start appearing for my local garden centre next to the picture of my shabby front garden? I'd better have given it a trim by the time the cameras return.
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