San Francisco's Ferry Building, with business listing in Street View
The Google Street View Car
It all began with Amazon.
When Amazon launched its "recommendations" feature years ago, everyone found it amazing that a hunk of software could generate suggestions about items tied to personal taste like CDs (remember those?) and books (remember those?). But while the concept was radical, the execution was fairly simple: Amazon simply crowdsourced data, keeping track of what people bought, what they put on their wish lists, and so on, then applied those results to create linkages between items: "Oh, so you like Debbie Gibson? You might also enjoy Martika."
The current frenzy around geolocation is merely the next step down the path toward an internet tailored to the specific needs, wants, likes, and location of you, the individual user. Programs like Gowalla, Foursquare, and Loopt crowdsource and collect data from users, then extrapolate from that data to create relevant, unique experiences, like info about nearby events. Now, Google has upped the geo game by adding business listings to Street View.
You've probably seen business listings in Google Maps -- they're all over the place. But until now, you haven't been able to see those directly in Street View. Sure, you can bounce from one service to the other, but if an address is tricky, or if the weather was too overcast when the Google cam rumbled by, you might not be able to glance at Street View and know for sure that you're looking at the right building.
Now, that's begun to change. As of yesterday, Google began rolling out business listings in Street View -- just like the one you see above for the Slanted Door, located in San Francisco's Ferry Building. The result is that users -- including drivers -- will be able to find locations easier and, presumably, to stumble upon places they might never have noticed. Not only that, but they'll have instant access to phone numbers, store hours, and reviews from previous customers.
Ultimately, we expect to see Google Maps, Google Street View, and Google Earth merge into one glorious, seamless topographical experience, with rich, real-time data floating on top of the stew. (Kind of like Second Life, but, you know, pleasant.) Call us crazy, but the idea of zipping down a street in Rome, getting turn-by-turn directions to our restaurant of choice, noting some well-reviewed cafes along the route, and learning about the city's medieval configuration -- all at the same time -- is pretty much what the internet ought to be.