Google Maps + Arcade Fire = groundbreaking web video

chrome_landing_arcade_fireOne of the many things that I love about the Internet, is the way it provides a nearly unlimited canvas for creativity, and then, once an artist has put the finishing touches on their work, the word can spread like wildfire and touch millions of people’s lives in a matter of hours.

I’ve just finished watching – and participating in – an experience that only the net could give us and I’m stunned by its beauty and originality.

It’s called “The Wilderness Downtown” and it combines the technology of Google’s Chrome browser, with the visual data of Google Maps & Street View all set to a track by Canadian band Arcade Fire – arguably one of the most influential groups in today’s music landscape.

If this description doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as my lead-in would suggest, you’re right. That’s because describing The Wilderness Downtown is sort of like describing the colour blue or the feeling of being cold. You could try, but ultimately all three of these items need to be experienced to be understood.

In a nutshell, The Wilderness Downtown uses your computer monitor as a multi-window display for a music video of Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait“. By opening and closing Google Chrome windows in different shapes, sizes and locations on your screen, each with a different visual element, your whole desktop becomes the video. But that’s just the beginning.


Screenshot from The Wilderness Downtown - click to enlarge

Using location information that you provide before the experience begins (the website asks for the street address of where you grew up), a significant portion of the video you see is pulled from Google’s Maps & Street View to show you sights that are unique to you as a viewer. Depending on how old you are and how many memories you have associated with your childhood neighbourhood, the effect is both eerie and profound.

There is also a portion of the experience that you are invited to take part in, but I’m not going to tell you what it is – but take my word for it – it’s worth doing. Don’t ignore it.

The Wilderness Downtown isn’t just an intense experience for the viewer – it’s also a workout for your computer. The site suggests – and I firmly agree – that you shut down all other programs or processes that might be eating up CPU cycles or your broadband connection. The best experience would be to run Chrome (it won’t work in any other browser) maximized on your desktop. Doing so ensures that you avoid any visual distractions and will hopefully prevent stuttering video or audio. Netbook users, you may be out of luck.

Check it out and tell us what you think.



  1. Phil

    Absolutely fantastic show with fast action cool music which will only get better. For sure, do the postcard what a cool writing experience. Received E-mail should be so interactive. Google has the incredible ability to take something complicated and making it so easy to experience.


  2. Trevor

    All I can say is WOW. This is absolutely wonderful. Kudos to the people who came up with this fantastic video. And please, keep them coming.


  3. sofiea2

    Hey who ever made this website i wonted to know if u can do a fu changes well mabe can you make us have are own page where people can right on only are page and also can right on this one too but…aaallllsssooo hum have like are pictures not so…werd NOT TRYING TO BE MEAN OR ANYTHING.Back to what i was saying u can have ur own music page and add people as friends and you can chat on the right or left side of the screen OOO and you can make the pictures of if your a girl like a purs or lipgloss or a kiss mark stuf like that and if your a boy like a car or a spiter anything like that i cant name alot kuz im a Girl and stuf well and u can also tipe in a name and see who pops up on your schreen make it more facebookie thx…IF you folow thouse steps you will have a lot more people looking and being apart of… and well thx i realy realy wont thous changes to happen even if you dont i gess i still will have to go on this website but only if im bord or crap well MAKE THOUSE CHANGES PLZZZZZZZZ I BAG U PLZZZZZZZZZZZ


  4. sofiea2

    Bob…im new so i wonted to know if you can add people to be your friend than when your on this web you can see if there on plz reply PLZZZ I BAG YOU PLZZZZZZ haha lol i know im werd


  5. sofiea2

    Bob can you plzzzz plzzz o plzzzzz be my friend i beg you i realy do Im NOT kidding i realy think you nice i have never had some one reply to my respons and i never wont to for get this moment and this is NOT just beace your my first person who replyed to my coment i promes i realy think your funni nice and sweet i just wont you to reply u can even say soem thing random kuz that will show how funny you are im realy down right now so i think you can bring me up (crys a little ) im not kidding bob how about we have secret cods and stuf i realy think your a gr8te person well…………………………..


  6. firefox

    Why si this not working in Opera 11, Firefox 4 beta or IE 9 – what crap are you trying to pull – experimental – this crap is easily doable in standards mode so stop publishing this experimental chrome only crap