Rediscovering the joys of web surfing

In the early days of the internet, the commercial landscape was so undefined and sparsely populated that a lot of navigation was totally pointless: you’d just click through things to see what was out there.  Now, mostly, you know where you’re going or are following a map laid out by a search engine and even though it is still quite possible to waste prodigious amounts of time online the inherent randomness of that early internet experience has been lost.  For a brief, frenzied moment Chat Roulette seemed to resurrect that pleasure but that faded when, faced with a video camera and an audience, a large number of people took to doing things you really didn’t want to see.

But then there is MapCrunch, which randomly pulls street view scenes from Google Maps — the one above is Pozoblanco in Spain but it could be just about anywhere — and offers an oddly addictive thrill along with all sorts of 21st century insights. For example: it is quite amazing how much of the earth has been paved with multi-lane highways.  Also: most of Europe is pretty ugly, looking entirely unlike those few ancient centers that predominate in the tourist brochures.  In fact, an obsessive pounding away on the ‘next map’ button reveals that the picturesque, generally, now occupies a small sliver of human experience.  Yet, strangely, the need to generate just one more map is almost irresistible.

Try it, you’ll see.

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Click here to read how I ended up in a Google Maps street view scene in Italy.  Or here for how Google Maps hides sensitive sites in Israel.  Or here for a map of the invisible city of Beirut.

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