Using trucks equipped with digital cameras, global positioning system (GPS) receivers, and proprietary software and hardware, A9.com drove tens of thousands of miles capturing images and matching them with businesses and the way they look from the street. The whole process (except for the driving!) is completely automatic, making it fast and efficient. Block View allows users to see storefronts and virtually walk up and down the streets of currently more than 10 U.S. cities using over 20 million photographs. We are driving and at some point hope to cover the whole country.I must admit, it is interesting to check out some of the shopfronts to places I visited in New York and LA, and the service may very well be quite useful when trying to find places for the first time. Being able to walk down the street in images is fun, too! I wonder if Amazon's other key countries--the UK, Japan, Germany--are going to be mapped?
A few amusing stories are already emerging on the back of A9's expansion ... Kottke links to an amusing story of a man who searched for his local pizza shop and found both himself and his family in the images! Meanwhile, Matt Jacobs wonders about A9's attempts to promote themselves through product placement. Apparently in The OC this week in the US, one of the characters said "So, I A9.com'ed Him Last Night". While a well chosen place to advertise, it's not exactly a sentence that rolls off the tongue. Googled is definitely preferable as a verb!
Update (30 Jan 2005, 9pm): Waxy has the clip from The OC in avi while A9 claims not to have paid for the mention. Right.