I just spent some time playing with Google’s satellite maps and ended up dredging up a bunch of nostalgia. I can see why people are using it to create what are being called memory maps. When you see the images of where you’ve been, even from a thousand feet up, it all comes flooding back.
There was the place I lived when I first started working on the Internet, with the office complex only a few hundred feet away. It was also the first place I’d ever lived outside of my parents’ house and where my car was broken into for the first time. I dragged the screen over to my parents’ house, and then from there to Carrie’s parents house. Along the way I caught glimpses of parks I’d played in as a kid, beaches I gone surfing at, and neighborhoods of friends. The maps trigger near video like memories for me that I hadn’t thought about since perhaps the events actually happened.
What’s weird for me is that this isn’t new technology. Like Jason points out, services that allow you to see satellite images of the ground have been available on the Internet for years, most of them free. Google has done such a good job of designing the user experience that the interface is completely transparent. You don’t even feel like it’s there at all. You can just set your zoom level and drag like crazy.
Google maps is simply a sign of things to come. With ideas like Ajax, the web as we know it is currently changing more so than it probably ever has since the first graphic showed up. The entire way of thinking about how to make sites that people interact with is changing. The idea of the web page itself is nearing its useful end. With the way Ajax allows you to build nearly stateless applications that happen to be web accessible, everything changes. What it changes into is starting to become apparent, but I think we’re still trying to figure out where we’ll end up.