Detroit before D.C., Google Maps? Really?


When Google Street View was first launched way back in May 2007, I was disappointed that D.C. wasn’t among the five starting cities (New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Las Vegas, and Miami) , but wasn’t too upset. This is only the tip of the iceberg, I figured, and D.C. would be added shortly.

Well, I was half right. 43 little cameras spring up on Google Maps now when you hit the “Street View” button, but not a single one even comes close to D.C. We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of Street View’s inception and, though Fairbanks, AK and Madison, WI have Street View, our nation’s capital is still Street View-less. D.C. was still a moderately important city, last time I checked; how could this be?

I shot an email over to the good folks at Google asking if/when they might be correcting this omission of theirs. The response I got, while good-natured, hardly cleared anything up. Elaine, of Google’s Global Communications & Public Affairs, first extolled the virtues of Street View (calling it “a useful and interesting tool for users everywhere”) before breaking the bad news.

We have gathered imagery in Washington DC, but we do not have any launch plans to announce at this time. The time between gathering imagery and making it available in Google Maps varies by city and is dependent on a variety of factors.

What kind of factors? Maybe Google is being slowed down by some silly red tape, courtesy of Homeland Security, the Park Service or any of the three thousand other bureaucracies which claim jurisdiction in the District?

I can’t get into many specifics, but we the imagery collection time varies by city given conditions like size of the region being covered (since we cover more than just the core downtown area), weather, etc. We also then spend time ensuring the quality and accuracy of images before posting them.

Sorry, D.C. residents, but it looks like it might be a while. While you wait, check out a few of the locations which have been added to Street View:

  • Spokane, WA: Both D.C. and Spokane, WA have the word “Washington” in their name, except one is home to some of the most influential people and institutions in the world and one’s claim to fame is hosting the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world.
  • Manchester, NH: I lived in New Hampshire for three years, and unless you have a great passion for New England foliage or winter, there’s not much to see here.
  • Yosemite National Park: A National Park before D.C.? But we’ve got at least two dozen of those!
  • Boise, ID and Minneapolis, MN: If we’re going to be including hangouts of Senator Larry Craig, Union Station is a must-have.
  • Albuquerque, NM: Rhymes with turkey. And that’s all I have to say about that.

8 Comments on “Detroit before D.C., Google Maps? Really?

  1. I’d love to see Washington on Street View, but due to major possible security threats, the posting of these images has been delayed.

    Albuquerque is the largest city is New Mexico, aka the Desert State. Not much to see there, but there enough, just like any other city. LOL

    See my Street View blog ( for upcoming Street View predictions.

  2. Cool blog. You know more about this subject than I do, but what security threats are there of showing pictures anyone can see on the street? A terrorist could drive around with a camera himself if he wanted to see what Washington looks like.

  3. I come from DC and I currently live in nearby Baltimore. I, too, am disappointed that Google has not included either city yet, and that the closest place that is covered are a few streets in Elkton, MD as part of the Philadelphia area icon. During 2007, when only major cities were being added, I kept thinking, if it wasn’t added now, maybe it’ll come in another two months. But I came to believe something different when in February, I saw obscure places like Boise, Idaho and Juneau Alaska. Then, March 27 came (earlier than I thought the next release would be), and along with it, two more cities in Alaska. Come on now! DC is one of the most important cities in our nation. Baltimore is one of the nation’s most major cities, with several million people in the city and its surrounding suburbs. And you still think Rockford, Illinois (population 150,000) and Manchester, NH (110,000) matter more?

    Though, I have not found definitive proof, I have seen blog speculations like the one above that it has to do with security concerns. Maryland is, after all, home to some security sensitive areas, like Ft. Meade, the NSA, and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

    But then, in early April,, a competing service, did indeed make DC available. No suburbs. Not even most of the city. But it does include the core portion, the US Capitol, many federal buildings, and some residential areas, too. When I first discovered this, I “visited” some familar, and I got the shock of my life. The house where my grandparents once lived that my father grew up in was demolished!

    Most of all, this put aside the theory I have heard about “security” issues. Unless Everyscape went ahead and did this boldly and got away with it.

    As for Baltimore, I did recently spot an Immersive Media car in the well-known Fells Point area, which tells me they are still working on it.

  4. For those of you disappointed about the wait, try not to be. Check it out. The technology for Google Street Maps continues to advance. If you look at the first 5 released cities, there is a limitation you can move around the scenery, 365 degrees and a little bit of tilting up and down as well as zooming in and out and moving up and down the roads but with the more recent cities photographed you can tilt the view up and into the sky if you wish. This helps when you are sight seeing in a city with tall skyscrapers. As amazing as Google’s current technology is, I can hardly imagine what Google’s further advances in technology has in store for us concerning Google Street View.

  5. Good point, Jojo. I guess if it means we get more awesome features I can wait a little for DC Street View.

  6. Pingback: Vox Populi ยป Frenchies frolic; DC still not on Google Street View

  7. The funny thing is we have the ‘Freedom of press’ that restircts the goverment from interfearing the media even at our own expense due to a war with Great Britan a long time ago.

    In the old days our fore-fathers would have very little fear of street view cause they know they aren’t being tracked live and spied on. It’s no different then pictures from a Kodiak camera by Joe.

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