Now You Can Time Travel In Google Street View

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 23 2014 9:21 AM

Now You Can Time Travel In Google Street View

You can make a before and after of basically anything.

Photos by Google.

Then-and now-photo series float around the Internet every day, but no matter how many times they come up, they're more compelling than any "Which Disney Princess Are You?" quiz. That's probably because they make us feel a little bit like we're time traveling. And who doesn't like some low-stakes time travel every now and then? (It’s better when you don’t have to worry about the ripple effect.)

Google wants you to have this feeling whenever you want, so the company has taken data from Street View going back to 2007 and made it available alongside the current images.


Starting Wednesday, anywhere you see a clock in the upper left corner of Street View on desktop, you can click to get a slider that will bring you back in time. You can slide through the years of available data for that place and see buildings rise and fall, seasons come and go, or landscapes change. If Google has the lasting power to still be providing Street View in 100 years, you'll be able to make a then and now of basically any place you want. And you'll still be alive to do it because clearly in the future we're all gonna be immortal.

Vinay Shet, Street View's product manager, highlights construction of the Freedom Tower in New York City and the World Cup Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, as two landmarks that are good for experimenting with the new feature. He also points out that the time slider allows you to easily see before and afters of Onagawa, which was devastated by Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami. "You can stay where you are and use Google Maps to virtually explore the world as it is—and as it was," he says.

The feature is largely a novelty right now since it only has about five years of images, but as the Street View database grows, it could become a valuable tool for research, and a digital braintrust for how time moves. From Google's perspective, it's valuable data to own.

If we’re going to time travel, it’s probably wise to start small.


Photos by Google.


Photos by Google.


Photos by Google.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?