Not content to rest on its laurels as the world’s most popular online map Google Maps, which has enjoyed renewed appreciation lately in the wake of Apple’s maps missteps, on Thursday announced its largest update to Google Street View yet.
Street View of course refers to the panoramic, interactive views of roads, places and other, increasingly esoteric spots around the globe that Google captures using vehicles outfitted with 360-degree, 15-lense cameras.
As Google Street View program manager Ulf Spitzer wrote in an official company blog post Thursday:
Today we’re making our Street View coverage more comprehensive than ever before by launching our biggest ever update—doubling our number of special collections and updating over 250,000 miles of roads around the world. We’re increasing Street View coverage in Macau, Singapore, Sweden, the U.S., Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway and Canada. And we’re launching special collections in South Africa, Japan, Spain, France, Brazil and Mexico, among others.
To be clear, Google hasn’t added any new mileage of roadways to Street View, just updated existing miles driven — some 5 million in total so far, a Google spokesperson told TPM.
“We’ve simply updated more than 250,000 miles of those roads,” Google’s spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re always working on additional enhancements to Google Maps, but have no further announcements to make at this time.”
Here’s an embed of one of the new Street View shots of Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia:
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Here’s another new Street View of Taroko Gorge in the Taroko National Park in Taiwan:
As Google’s Spitzer notes, besides providing users with a helpful tool for travelers who are looking for specific places based on appearance, Street View “can also magically transport you to some of the world’s picturesque and culturally significant landmarks,” as well as provide other creative opportunities. Street View even reunited a son with his mother a continent away after they were separated for most of his life, as Vanity Fair detailed.
But Google’s Street View has also been investigated by numerous government agencies around the globe, including the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, for improper data collection practices (“sniffing” or data collection of people’s open WiFi networks in the case of the U.S.).
Thursday’s update of Street View comes on the heels of Google bringing Street View to its Google Maps mobile website, which previously only allowed users to see top-down imagery. As a result, even users of Apple devices running the new iOS 6 operating system (which comes default on the iPhone 5 and new Apple devices) can see Street View again, despite Apple kicking Google Maps off its devices in September.
Google also recently launched a special Google Maps website specifically to show off how third-party developers (those outside of the company) are using its Google Maps API software codes to create their own apps.
But Google’s not all about adding to its mapping capabilities: The company is also willing to prune some of the information it gives and takes from users, with Google on Wednesday moving to allow users to rate local business listings on Google Maps using a qualitative scale (from “poor - fair” to “good” to “very good” to “excellent”).
The move appears to mark Google’s deprecation of the very same 30-point Zagat scores that it acquired along with Zagat in late 2011 and subsequently began showing on Google Maps listings of places and Google Plus business pages, though it should be noted that Google will still display ratings based on Zagat’s 30-point scale (30 being the best), converting users’ qualitative ratings into points, and Google did just release a new Zagat app for Android.
Correction: This article originally stated that Google had expanded the Street View imagery to include 250,000 new miles, but a Google spokesperson clarified that Google merely updated 250,000 miles-worth of imagery. The references have since been corrected in copy and we regret the erros.