Comparing the four heavyweights.

Google first launched Street View in 2007.

The tech giants – Microsoft, Apple and Facebook – now all have products built around street-level imagery.

Here’s a short comparison of them:

Age

  • Google: Street View (launched: 2007)
  • Microsoft: StreetSide (launched: 2009)
  • Facebook: Mapillary (launched: 2013)
  • Apple: Look Around (launched: 2019)

Coverage

Google wins hands down. According to the CNET article posted December 2019, there is 10 million miles (16.1 million km) of Street View imagery online.

At the time of writing the Mapillary home page proudly claims 1,289,873,858 images uploaded. It is unclear how many kilometers this represents. As a reference point, in July 2018 Mapillary claimed 5 million kilometers (but sadly no image count). Unlike Street View, this count assumes all user uploaded images and not unique kilometers (in many cases roads have been captured multiple times).

Apple’s look around is the newest street-level offering on the market. In April 2020, the sevice covered 10 areas in the US. As of August 2020, this site claims Look Around now covers 14 metropolitan areas, with the addition of Seatle, Nagoya, Osaka/Kyoto, Tokyou.

I could not find any official numbers for StreetSide coverage, but I would estimate it sits below Street View and Mapillary from a simple glance of coverage using the Bing Maps web app.

Community

Apple’s Look Around does not support any kind of user contributions of imagery.

In 2010 it looked like StreetSide accepted user submissions. However, I cannot find any references to uploading your own imagery in the current iteration of the product.

Google has managed to foster a large community of high-quality contributors using their Street View ready program. Both camera manufacturers, and software builders (ourselves included), can build ontop of the Street View platform.

Mapillary is prodominatly user submitted imagery. It appears they did start to run a driver program in 2020, which I imagine is superseeded after the aquistion by Facebook’s own imagery collection. Users can also modify uploaded imagery using changesets, making it by far and away the most community orientated platform.

Quality

Google, Apple, and Microsoft all run their own driving programs using professional equipment. For example, Google spend 10’s of thousands on camera and sensor equipment for each car. All imagery on these three services is 360.

Google Street View also has very strict Street View Ready Pro criteria for user submitted imagery.

Mapillary does things slightly differently. The majority of photos are from single sensor dash and action cameras. Quality checks on upload by Mapillary are limited. In many cases you’ll come across low-quality dashcam footage (for example, with rain on the windscreen).

That said, Mapillary also hosts lots of high-quality captures. The team at Mosaic51 use Mapillary to showcase professional footage captured by their own camera rig.

Privacy

Last week I took a look at each service deals with image removal and blurring, with the exception of Apple’s Look Around.

Apple’s stance is as follows:

For questions or concerns about this process, your right to privacy, or for requests to have a face, license plate or your own home made unrecognizable , please contact us.

I don’t see any major differences in each companies privacy stance (when taken at face value…).

The Future

You can see where the Google Street View cars will be next here, and where Apple Look Around cars will be next here.

Whilst I can’t find anything confirming it, I would be very confident that Microsoft’s Streetsde cars are still on the road too.

Mapillary is likely to grow quickly after the recent Facebook aquisition, and the big pockets that affords them. Where they’ll be next? Well that depends on the 1000’s of contributors.

David Greenwood

Professional explorer.