Google, Maps and History




I think we are all in agreement that Google has a lot of really good points and equal amounts of bad ones, right? I chalk it up to no one is perfect especially when you are cutting a new path.

Well, I would like to take the time to congratulate Google on using their technology for something more than just marketing and making a buck (although they may make money from this but how is beyond me). A post from the Google LatLong blog this past week tells how they are using maps to bring to life the reality, the horror and the important history of World War II.

Few events in human history have the scale of World War II. It’s spatial breadth and temporal extent make it difficult to comprehend by those of us too young to have lived it. There are history books, movies, and photographs, but they portray isolated places and events more than the connected whole. So we’ve addressed this by launching historical imagery in Google Earth in a number of new areas, including London in 1945, in coordination with archivists in these countries.

Here is a picture of London from then and now

Warsaw. Poland. In 1935 on the left and 1945 on the right when 85% of the structures had been wiped out by war.

If you are interested in seeing this in action here’s how

Nearly all of 1945 London awaits your exploration. Enjoying it is easy. Just start Google Earth (install it here if you’re not one of the 700 million who already have) and type London as your destination in the upper left. Then, click on the clock icon to enable historic imagery.

If you are in the US and are at least awake on a daily basis you know that there are critical elections coming up on November 2. We sit on two sides of a broken fence and take shots at each other for ideology and more personal things. We complain. We bitch. We moan. Also, we take it all for granted.

On my opinion, a more important day is Veteran’s Day on November 11th which will come and go with little fanfare. Why? Because people forget that others have sacrificed for our current way of life. Google is helping to remind us of the history and its importance by showing just what happened in World War II through their maps function.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Nothing and everything all at once. Nothing because it’s not the usual information we discuss about Internet marketing and its impact etc, etc. here at Marketing Pilgrim. It is, however, very much about the freedoms that have been preserved through time that allow us to make things like Internet marketing important, even when in the end they really are not.

Oh and by the way. Another reason I truly appreciate what Google is doing here is that in January of 1945 my mom lost her father and I lost my grandfather (long before I was even born) at the Battle of the Bulge. On the good days when I am in a ticked-off mood and I write something mean-spirited, I think about whether the sacrifice of my grandfather’s life is honored by that activity. Many days, it keeps me in check.

This history that Google is preserving is part of my history and still very much a part of my present. War and its impact is powerful and we must never forget what has been done so we can live a life today that, even with its troubles, is far better than even just 100 short years ago. Thinking from time to time about what people have done for us may keep us all in check and maybe even interested in greater things than just business, profit, power etc.

Thanks Google for making this happen. It may not be marketing but it’s so much more.

  • Steve Lack

    You said: War and its impact is powerful and we must never forget what has been done so we can live a life today…

    So you are assuming that the life we have today couldn’t have been achieved without war? Perhaps if people had tried to resolve conflict short of invading other countries and killing people who they disagree with you would’ve known your grandfather and you would still be free today. I wonder how many won’t know their grandchildren due to the current, senseless, multiple wars going on around the world that could be resolved through other means if people wanted to.