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features /  column
editor content by: editor
street view
webslinky: maps
Location, location, location.

Maps! Maps are pretty useful things, whether you’re trying to navigate your way through Basingstoke’s one-way system or attempting to hurriedly back-track through a network of identical-looking corridors in Resident Evil.

Extensive research has also shown the internet to be pretty useful: combine the two and you’re in for a world of excellence. Streetmap got in early and has provided a decent, self-explanatory street-map service for years, by basically just digitising Ordnance Survey maps.

The service works well, but it’s really the world’s least malicious information superpower Google who have been pushing what maps can do online. Google’s maps, or “ultra-maps” if you will (and I do), got pretty exciting when the ability to switch to a photographic satellite view allowed you to pretend you were a sinister alien presence spying on Downing Street. But the introduction of Street View on the American service is so incredible that it seems barely believable: now, at certain locations, it is possible to zoom right down to street level and see a 360-degree image of the location. Try it out.

Like the satellite view, the photos taken by Google’s special van are a snapshot in time – only now the snapshot is disturbingly detailed. Of course, it didn’t take long for people to realise that even the small portion of the world captured so far is full of entertaining stuff to find: thankfully, Google Sightseeing were already on the case. The blog not only covers Street View, but also documents all kinds of bizarre discoveries from the satellite view and the 3D environment Google Earth.

If you combine Google Maps with other information, it can be even more useful. I can’t think of anything more useful or culturally significant than this Google Maps Guide To Ghostbusters mash-up, for example, while Gawker’s Stalker - dynamically mapping the precise location of celebrity sightings in New York – is truly ingenious, if a little creepy (when it works).

All this goes to show that maps really are more exciting than GCSE geography might have had you believe. If you still don’t find maps suitably thrilling, it’s time you invested in an extra-wide monitor to fully enjoy the items on Strange Maps. It’s quite literally full of strange maps.


David Thair 21 June 07
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