Google’s iconic Street View service, which allows almost anybody to contribute to or view imagery of the world around them, is officially 10 years old as of today and Google has decided to celebrate by going over a brief history of the service. It all started in 2004, when Google co-founder Larry Page got the idea for Street View, and decided to put a team together and begin working on it. A prototype was built that year, but it wasn’t until 2006 that the team managed to create the very first full-featured Street View van. From there, it only took until May 30, 2007 for the service to go live for the public, debuting with somewhat limited imagery. In the ten intervening years, a combination of technological breakthroughs, powerful innovations, and hard work from passionate individuals has turned the service into one of the best ways out there to explore the world.
Street View’s main avenue of inventory growth and diversification has been the development of new ways to create and patch in imagery. To that end, Street View trikes started popping up in 2009, and 2010 was the year that a snowmobile was first rigged up, giving us imagery of mountains that would be impossible to get with normal vehicles. In 2011, Street View began to get indoor museum images, followed by underwater imagery in 2012. 2013 was an interesting year for the service; Google began loaning out “Trekker” backpacks with Street View gear, and allowed anybody with a capable smartphone to share photo spheres to Street View, vastly expanding the places the service could go. Pedestrian paths in Venice, historic sites, and mountain paths were all fair game, among others.
2014 was a bit less eventful, seeing the service launch its Time Machine feature and capture images from on the back of a camel. 2015 made a huge change in the way people could experience Street View. Anybody with a Cardboard headset and a compatible smartphone could now view the world in VR through Street View, not unlike actually being out there. Vertical images from Yosemite were also captured. 2016 was also a bit less eventful, but 2017 made up for it in two ways. For starters, Street View imagery from inside the live Vanuatu volcanoes is now available. On top of that, Google is working hand in hand with camera manufacturers to make a number of different 360 degree cameras more Street View friendly. It’s anybody’s guess how the service is going to expand from here, in content, experience, and technology.