Back in 2012, Google maps was given an extra feature – Photo tours. The announcement here on the Google LatLong blogspot site explains how they used to work… sometime in early May 2014, photo tours seem to have been removed – as all links to individual photo tours no longer work.
Here’s a video on how they used to look:
But now if you try to find a Photo Tour on Google Maps, you get blanks where they used to be, for example, the Colosseum:
and photo tours are missing from the image carousel in Google maps too:
Photo tours were one of a selection of Google maps virtual visiting options, others remaining include:
photos (submitted by people)
photospheres (generated using apps on phones providing full 360 degree views from a specific point)
Earth tours (combined with Google Earth showing birds eye fly by views, such as this one of the Eiffel tower)
Google guidelines expained how photo tours were created, using image processing and selected images from Panoramio and Picasa in this help guide:
Every photo is attributed to its contributor, and the more photos people share, the better the tours get. So if you have great photos of places you’ve visited on Picasa or Panoramio, make them public so they’ll be eligible for inclusion in these photo tours!
Here is the full help guide on creation of photo tours that used to live at this URL:
Google Maps Photo Tours are guided, 3D tours of thousands of landmarks and locations around the globe using photos submitted to Google Maps.
Watch a tour
There are two ways to find and start a Photo Tour:
Search for a city or country and look in the info cards.
Search for a landmark and open the carousel in the bottom right corner and select the box with the photo tour icon .
Here are a few examples of locations with Photo Tours: the Colosseum, Hagia Sophia, Kōtoku-in, Mont Saint-Michel, Moraine Lake, Sagrada Familia, Shoshone Falls Park, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, and the Arch of Titus.
Source of photos
Photo Tours are built from photos that people have submitted to Panoramio or uploaded to a public Picasa photos album.
Google Maps uses state of the art computer vision techniques to organize and relate all the photos in 3D and then group, or cluster, the photos according to what’s seen. If a lot of people take photos in front of a famous cathedral, for example, an algorithm selects the best photo. Photos that someone takes down from Panoramio or Picasa will likewise be removed from Photo Tours.
To report a photo, simply click the Report a problem link in the lower right corner when the inappropriate image appears. You can then submit a report for that particular photo on the photo site that it came from.
That’s how it used to be… but accessing this help page now redirects the visitor to this article about Imagery and the Streetview overview:
Well, for the moment, it appears that photo tours have been removed from Google Maps.
Perhaps they are to be integrated within StreetView in the near future – as the products shared similarities and mosaicing images is useful to provide a seemless transition when using Streetview. The photo tour feature may simply get absorbed by StreetView, and is awaiting re-release.
What do you think has happened to photo tours in Google Maps ?
Google has an unfair advantage when pushing its own products. Take Google’s car insurance comparison tool as an example. Just recently, adverts for the tool have started to appear in GMail – at the top of the lists of emails in the Promotions folder.
This is a very prominent position, the advert appears as follows:
These positions are open to all advertisers, of course, for a fee…
It is only Google that can occupy this prime location for free.
The advert takes the reader of their GMail promotions to the car insurance comparison research tool. The following screenshot shows how the advert appears within GMail when clicked… notice the calls to action to share the tool with others, not simply use the comparison tool – but pass it on too.
What do you think about Google using GMail to its advantage in this way ?
Car insurance aggregators (such as Confused.com) must look closely at these types of adverts and fear the possible domination of the price comparison sector by Google one day.