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Google Maps Street View Adds 'Time Machine' Capability

Google’s Time Machine feature adds images from the past to current locations in its Street View service.
Posted at 3:31 PM, Apr 23, 2014

The latest update to Google Maps makes it more than just a guide to the streets of the world — now it's a time machine, too.

In a blog post Wednesday, Google announced it's now offering photos from the past alongside much of its current Street View library. The company has been collecting curbside shots since 2007; the thinking seems to be, "Why not share it?”"

Spots with images from the past will feature an hourglass logo in the upper left-hand corner of the Street View window. Clicking deploys a timeline of past images to sort through. (Via Google)

The Verge notes this is something of a departure from Google's typical "feverish pace of updates that erased the old with the new and never looked back."

Luc Vincent, Google's director of engineering for Street View, told The Wall Street Journal it's partly because users want different things out of the service now.

"What we've done before now was give users the freshest imagery, because that's typically what's most useful to them. And from now on, every time we add imagery, it will be with a time machine layer—it will be enabling this going-back-in-time feature."

The Guardian points out Google has been catering more to armchair tourists recently, augmenting its maps service with navigable 3-D views of tourist hotspots such as Venice and interior views of major transit hubs.

But the addition of a time machine is unique if just for the huge amount of data it represents. Maps' most complete version covers more than 6 million miles of street views; adding the feature will reportedly double Google's archive of street-level images. (Via Re/code)

Eventually, that is. The time machine is still rolling out to desktop clients across the world, and Google says it's not coming to mobile devices in the immediate future.