Look Out, EveryScape—Google Gives Users a Better Look Around Boston
I can tell you right now that Wade is not going to like this post. As many of you know, he’s a huge fan of both maps and 3-D modeling technology, and anything that puts the two together…well, forget about it. Which is why, I’m guessing, he is so intrigued by EveryScape, a Waltham, MA-based company that’s building a navigable, photorealistic, 3-D online map of the world, or at least select cities. To be sure, there’s a lot even for map-neutral users to like about EveryScape site, which Wade wrote about when it launched in October. But I have to say, Google Maps’ street view feature, launched today for much of greater Boston, is better.
First of all, there’s the question of coverage. Google’s got most of the inside-Route-128 region pretty well blanketed with panoramic street-level photographs that let users pick a spot on the map and not only see what it actually looks like—an absolutely critical feature if you’re trying to plan a trip through what’s probably the worst-signed streetscape in the country—but also to pan and move as if actually walking around. EveryScape, on the other hand, is so far limited pretty much to Boston proper. (On a national level, Google has the edge too, covering Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Boston, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Paul, and Tucson, compared to Aspen, Boston, Laguna Beach, Miami, and New York for EveryScape.) With Google, you can even take a gander at Xconomy’s Cambridge headquarters; with EveryScape, not so much.
I’ll cut EveryScape a break on the coverage question—lord knows a startup with less than $10 million in venture funding can’t match Google’s resources to send photographers out to every nook and cranny of every city. But what really bugs me is how user-unfriendly the company’s site is. Compare, for example, the landing page you get if you choose to visit Boston via EveryScape and the corresponding offering from Google. A map site that requires reading four different information boxes before it lets you actually see the map just isn’t very intuitive, in my book. With Google, you just drag the little orange avatar anywhere along any of the blue-lined streets and a window pops open with a view from that location; you can then pan around in place or follow arrows down the street. With EveryScape there’s a more complicated system involving a small map off to one side; I can’t describe it exactly because just having the site open actually brought my computer to its knees (probably the central source of my frustration with EveryScape, truth be told).
Now, to be clear, I don’t think it’s time to give up on EveryScape just yet. As Wade pointed out, the site’s photography is much brighter, sharper, and prettier than Google’s—making the possibility of convincing virtual tourism much more likely with EveryScape. [Everyscape also puts a lot more effort into the animations that give you a feeling of moving from one point-of-view to the next. —your friendly editor, W.R.] And unlike Google, EveryScape lets you explore inside certain buildings, though the number of them is limited so far.
What’s more, the way that the startup is monetizing that feature by selling commissioned interior views to property owners, stores, and the like is both clever and, I think, likely to generate content that will be genuinely useful to users. Being able to virtually walk up to and into an expensive hotel, say, or a tony club before you plunk down the cash could provide a big help in deciding how to spend your time and money—and a nice voyeuristic break for those not planning on spending either. If it’s going to realize that vision, though, EveryScape will need to make sure that virtual tourists don’t get tripped up before they even cross the threshold.