Tom made me aware that a Google Street View camera car has been to Ventry, the little village in the west of Ireland where I spend my summers. Not only to the village itself, which lies on a fairly well-traveled tourist road. The camera car found its way to our one-lane bothareen ("little road"), up on the hill overlooking the village. And every other by-way too.
Go to a place in front of our cottage -- that's it peeking over the brush at the top of the driveway -- and do a 360 with the camera. If Google has been to Ventry, it must have already visited most of Ireland, and a 360 view is available from every place along every one of those roads. And if Google has been to Ireland, you can be sure that a camera car has been to most other places in -- well, you tell me.
All of these views are stored as strings of ones and zeros on a server in (I'm presuming) California, available free for instant viewing by anyone in the world with a computer and access to the internet. The quantity of data stored, along with its indexing, must be mind-boggling. If you can find our little cottage nestled among the bramble, what can't you see?
It's a mystery to me how Google Earth+Street View pays for itself. I've used it for hours without ever contributing a penny. For example, I've been reading The River Congo: The Discovery, Exploration, and Exploitation of the World's Most Dramatic River, by Peter Forbath. I was able to go to Google Earth and follow the river from its source to its mouth, tracing from on high the routes of the 18th and 19th-century European explorers I was reading about -- and the unfolding tragedy to Africans. As far as I know, a camera car has not yet prowled the streets of Kinshasa, but that can only be a matter of time.
Anyway, go for a virtual visit to our nearby town of Dingle. I'll meet you here at the Holyground for a virtual pint.