For some people, Google's Street View is already creepy. Yes, someone actually drove through your neighborhood, snapped some pictures, and put them next to your address on the Internet. I can see where that would bother some people.
Now, Google has taken Street View and wrapped it into the new mobile version of Google Maps. (Techmeme) Same idea: type in an address or search for a business and get back directions, information and now a teeny-tiny image of the physical location of that address. I installed the new mobile version on my Blackberry and did a few searches. Sure enough, it worked. I pulled up the gas station closest to my house and saw that it was on the right side of the street (valuable information if you're unfamiliar with the area). I even pulled up my own address and there it was: my house, though barely recognizable on the screen.
Creepy, right? No, not really. Not for me. My house is already there for anyone to see, whether it's seen from a plane or from a car that drives by in the middle of the night. So what if you saw it on the Internet. When I put my house up for sale, I took pictures of it - inside and out - and put it on the Internet with my street address (and directions). Plus, it's not like Google took you inside and sat you down at my kitchen table. (Hmmm... ) I just refuse to be freaked out by a picture of my house on the Web.
Anyway, back to mobile maps. Here's how Google explains its purpose, from its official blog entry:
Wondering if the restaurant in your search results is the one you're thinking of? Just click "Street View" after your search to see the storefront. Unsure about a complicated intersection in your directions? Use Street View to see a photo, so there's no mistaking your turn. You can also launch Street View from any address where we have photography, or simply by clicking on the map and selecting "Street View". You can browse Street View overlaid on the map or in full screen, rotate your view to see more of your surroundings, and move along the street.
With mobile data plans grabbing attention (thanks, iPhone) and mobile apps gaining in popularity (thanks again, iPhone), it only makes sense that Google would bring something like Street View to mobile. Eventually, the screen issue will go away as handheld devices become more like - OK, last time... - the iPhone. If you can watch movies on the screen, then you can certainly take advantage of Street View to determine if the gas station on Main Street is on the right or the left.
Mobile devices are already becoming more and more like handheld computers, jumping online by either WiFi or mobile broadband. Google, like everyone else, is trying to differentiate itself to be a leader in mobile. So, instead of just giving us maps with driving directions, it's including bonus features like Street View and walking directions, which was also announced today. It's only natural that Google would bring to mobile what it's already given us on the laptop. In fact, I expect nothing less.
For now, the new Maps application is only available on Blackberry and many java-enabled phones. In the comments section of the Google blog, people are already asking for a version for Apple's device (notice I didn't say it?). For a sneak-peek, check out Google's video below.