If you've been hanging out waiting for Google to bring Streetview to the land down under, your wait is practically over. The Big G plans to unleash the service a bit later today, meaning you can waste hours of work hours virtually driving around the country to discover holiday locations, look at houses or watch people falling off bikes.
Australia is the third country to enjoy the free Google service, behind the US and France (where they mapped out the route of the Tour de France). But while the US only has 50 major US cities mapped out, Australian Streetview will cover a large chunk of the country from launch - it's not complete by any stretch of the imagination, and Google couldn't (or wouldn't) give us hard figures for how much has been mapped already, but they did say that the ultimate goal is 100% coverage (eventually). Addressing the ongoing privacy concerns, Google has been in constant talks with privacy bodies, who have admitted that Google is doing all that they can to address these concerns. Google was particularly emphatic on the point that Streetview isn't a realtime service - photos taken are on average about eight months old. They have software that automagically blurs faces and number plates, and if it happens to miss something, there's an easy form to fill out that will let you notify Google so they can either blur or remove the offending image.
One other really cool feature is the ability to embed Streetview images into your own website, making it perfect for real estate agents or other business owners to showcase their location. Or anybody else looking to organise a meetup.
They've also worked closely with Geography teachers around the country, who are using (or will be using) Streetview as an educational tool in the classroom to teach kids about geography. The schools love it because it's infinitely cheaper than organising field trips, although it is still restricted by the current coverage.
We're sure many of you Gizmodians will waste away several hours on Streetview - make sure you tip us if you find anything funny in the process...
[Streetview on Giz]