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New Google Street View feature lets you time-travel to images past

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to go back in time for even a few years, Google's Street View has you covered.

Google's Street View cars periodically wander the world, snapping pictures every few feet. Google's cars have traversed all of the world's major continents, including Antarctica, allowing you to get a glimpse of what life is like on a broad swath of the globe. You can even find out where the Street View cars are headed next.

What Google hasn't done--until now, that is--is let you peer into the past. Traditionally, Google shows you the most current photo it has for a given location, even though it has an image stored from the last time a Street View card visited (if there is one). Now, you can see what Google saw, too.

"Forget going 88 mph in a DeLorean--you can stay where you are and use Google Maps to virtually explore the world as it is--and as it was. Happy (time) traveling!" Vinay Shet, a Google product marketing manager, wrote in a blog post

If you visit a particular location, say, the new World Cup stadium in Brazil, or the Freedom Tower in New York City, Google may show you a "clock" icon in the upper left-hand corner. Click it and you'll be able to see photos from a few years ago. (Note: this feature currently isn't enabled in my browser, so it may take a while to roll out to everyone.)

Over time, you'll be able to track the construction of the Freedom Tower, or how particular cities have been affected by natural disasters--or on a lighter note, how Italy's roadways look in winter and summer

In all, Google has recognized that Google Street View may be the only view some get of the Great Barrier Reef or national parks like Yosemite. And if you're looking for something more prosaic, try MapCrunch, which simply jumps to a random location in Google's Street View database. Happy hunting!

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