Learning the Street View language.

Word of warning: this post is accurate at the time of publication (2020-01-03) but may not be on the day your are reading this due to possible changes made by Google. If you do spot an error, please email us to make us aware.

Have you ever taken a closer look at a Street View URL?

Beware, they’re very messy… at first glance…

Let’s look at a simplified example using a Google image:

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5083663,-0.1114931,2a,75y,260.89h,78.32t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo2.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D339.28687%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i13312!8i6656

See what I mean about it being messy?

Though like learning a language, once you understand the structure, the rest tends to fall into place. So let’s learn the language of the Google Street View URL.

The first part (@51.5083663,-0.1114931) is the latitude and longitude of the photo. This is fixed for the photo.

The following three values differ depending on the zoom and orientation selected by the user. As you move around inside the image, watch how these values change in the URL with each movement.

The field of view (75y) defines the zoom level between 1 (max) and 90 (min). 75 is the default value Google uses.

The heading (260.89h) can be seen next. Measured between >=0 and <360.

The final part (78.32t) is the pitch of the view (measured between 1 and 179).

Following the orientation and position information, the actual image data (data=) is defined.

Google seems to employ a number of bangs (!) in the data section of the URL. Each segment of the attribute is preceded by “!”, a number from 1 - 9, and a letter (m, e, etc).

In this example there are 8 bangs…

data=
!3m7
!1e1
!3m5
!1sjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ
!2e0
!6s//geo2.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=jJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ&output=thumbnail&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps&thumb=2&w=203&h=100&yaw=339.28687&pitch=0&thumbfov=100
!7i13312
!8i6656

…only one that is human readable.

The data values are encoded.

For example, %3D decoded is =.

So; panoid%3DjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ when decoded is panoid=jJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ

Fully decoded the Street View URL above becomes:

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5083663,-0.1114931,2a,75y,260.89h,78.32t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ!2e0!6s//geo2.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=jJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ&output=thumbnail&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps&thumb=2&w=203&h=100&yaw=339.28687&pitch=0&thumbfov=100!7i13312!8i6656

Decoded URL, hence will not load correctly.

Looking at the human-readable bang specifically (broken into new lines to make it easier to read):

!6s//geo2.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=jJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ
&output=thumbnail
&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps
&thumb=2
&w=203
&h=100
&yaw=339.28687
&pitch=0
&thumbfov=100

You can see a host (geo2.ggpht.com/cbk) with a panoid= value. This is the unique reference to the panoramic image.

After that we see &output=thumbnail followed by information that seems to be related to said output (a thumbnail image). I assume this because; &w=203&h=100 looks to refer to width (203px) and height (100px) as well as values like yaw= and pitch= that remain static and likely set the view of the thumbnail, unlike the first part of the URL which changes when the user moves the view.

Though I have no idea what the &output=thumbnail actually refers too – it can be entirely removed from the URL and the image will still load correctly in the browser;

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5083663,-0.1114931,2a,75y,260.89h,78.32t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sBUnezD_ki4oX_PDm2A1lWw!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ!7i13312!8i6656

Let’s compare another decoded URL on the same stretch of footpath, also captured by Google to see if it offers any clues to the missing information.

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5082164,-0.1125885,2a,75y,101.34h,88.6t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s7YsnZ32rM6gi8Ivi2k3viA!2e0!6s//geo0.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=7YsnZ32rM6gi8Ivi2k3viA&output=thumbnail&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps&thumb=2&w=203&h=100&yaw=340.40964&pitch=0&thumbfov=100!7i13312!8i6656

Decoded URL, hence will not load correctly.

The 8 bangs for this URL:

data=
!3m7
!1e1
!3m5
!1s7YsnZ32rM6gi8Ivi2k3viA
!2e0
!6s//geo0.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=7YsnZ32rM6gi8Ivi2k3viA&output=thumbnail&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps&thumb=2&w=203&h=100&yaw=340.40964&pitch=0&thumbfov=100
!7i13312
!8i6656

Almost all the bang values are identical to the first image, except inside the 6th bang where the panoId and the yaw differ, and perhaps most interestingly the value in the 4th bang (1st URL = !1sjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ / 2nd URL = !1s7YsnZ32rM6gi8Ivi2k3viA)

Google Street View Place name

Initially I thought the 4th bang might be referring to the Google Place ID of the image, however both images show “The Queen’s Walk” as the place, and a lookup of the place ID for the “The Queen’s Walk” returns EixUaGUgUXVlZW4ncyBXYWxrLCBTb3V0aCBCYW5rLCBMb25kb24gU0UxLCBVSyIuKiwKFAoSCekLrB7HBHZIEQ5z1qt4guCgEhQKEgk_J5VMtgR2SBFYYta2uf8XCQ.

Digging deeper, lets take another Street View image taken by Google and it’s decoded URL:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@45.8326327,6.8634657,2a,75y,68.65h,91.77t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sk92ptfUShdo9lKo5PYMGew!2e0!6s//geo1.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=k92ptfUShdo9lKo5PYMGew&output=thumbnail&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps&thumb=2&w=203&h=100&yaw=10.15913&pitch=0&thumbfov=100!7i13312!8i6656

Decoded URL, hence will not load correctly.

The 8 bangs for this URL:

data=
!3m7
!1e1
!3m5
!1sk92ptfUShdo9lKo5PYMGew
!2e0
!6s//geo1.ggpht.com/cbk?panoid=k92ptfUShdo9lKo5PYMGew&output=thumbnail&cb_client=maps_sv.tactile.gps&thumb=2&w=203&h=100&yaw=10.15913&pitch=0&thumbfov=100
!7i13312
!8i6656

Again, only the the 6th bang (panoId and yaw) and the 4th bang change (1st URL = !1sjJXYsBpPPqWuvSR5RUaIEQ / 2nd URL = !1s7YsnZ32rM6gi8Ivi2k3viA / 3rd URL = !1sk92ptfUShdo9lKo5PYMGew).

I’m still non-the wiser.

This time, let’s take a look at user uploaded content – one of our panoramas (versus Google content):

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.2895639,-0.8214139,3a,75y,1.74h,90t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX!2e10!3e11!6shttps://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX=w203-h100-k-no-pi0-ya23.025953-ro0-fo100!7i5760!8i2880

Decoded URL, hence will not load correctly.

The 9 bangs for this URL:

data=
!3m8
!1e1
!3m6
!1sAF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX
!2e10
!3e11
!6shttps://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX=w203-h100-k-no-pi0-ya23.025953-ro0-fo100
!7i5760
!8i2880

It seems user content is handled differently. Firstly, the URL is made up of 9 bangs.

This time the 1st (!3m8), 3rd (!3m6), 4th (!1sAF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX), 6th NEW (!3e11), 7th (pano info), 8th (!7i5760), and 9th (!8i2880) bangs are all different to the previous image.

The pano info (7th bang, equivalent to the 6th bang for Google uploaded images) is also considerably different:

!6shttps://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX=w203-h100-k-no-pi0-ya23.025953-ro0-fo100

This time the host is different (googleusercontent.com vs ggpht.com). The panoid is defined after the /p/ (in this case AF1QipP8Umrvyj6jz7HQFCJ1IGxUFo4tSfZdciNHyBqX vs. panoid=), and the output=thumbnail argument is replaced with what looks to be a reference to a thumbnail but in a different structure containing references to (I think) width (w203), height (h100), pitch (pi0), yaw (ya23.025953), and field of view (fo100).

I think ro0 refers to the roll value (my assumption is that Google images omit this value because roll is accounted for by Google pre-upload and thus always equal to 0).

I have no idea about what k-no defines though.

Now, one final Street View image to use as a comparison, this time another piece of user contributed imagery, this time from Federico Debetto, and the Zanzibar Street View project:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@-6.2159039,39.2119878,3a,75y,4.95h,93.34t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipNZxgmALRIjjkbvUWBAOJYLi6niVs3pCosZ5ul3!2e10!3e11!6shttps://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipNZxgmALRIjjkbvUWBAOJYLi6niVs3pCosZ5ul3=w203-h100-k-no-pi-18.636326-ya45.429626-ro-1.5321815-fo100!7i7680!8i3840

Decoded URL, hence will not load correctly.

data=
!3m8
!1e1
!3m6
!1sAF1QipNZxgmALRIjjkbvUWBAOJYLi6niVs3pCosZ5ul3
!2e10
!3e11
!6shttps://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipNZxgmALRIjjkbvUWBAOJYLi6niVs3pCosZ5ul3=w203-h100-k-no-pi-18.636326-ya45.429626-ro-1.5321815-fo100
!7i7680
!8i3840

Compared to the Trek View user uploaded image analysed previously, this time the 4th (!1sAF1QipNZxgmALRIjjkbvUWBAOJYLi6niVs3pCosZ5ul3 ), 7th (pano info), 8th (!7i7680) and 9th (!8i3840) bangs differ.

And I give up.

I’m not sure my own trial and error is getting me any closer to becoming fluent in Street View URL bangs!.

My guess is that some of these bangs refer to my Google account and other user specific variables (like browser, device, type of Google Maps app…) in addition to the image location.

Hopefully some enterprising reader might be able to help me complete this puzzle…

David Greenwood

Professional explorer.