'Tab With a View': how to virtually enjoy some of the world's most wintry walks this Christmas

Take a stroll across a snow-carpeted Christmas market in Germany or down a boulevard with leafless trees in Japan

For obvious coronavirus-related reasons, Christmas this year is going to look noticeably different. But that doesn’t have to dampen your holiday spirit or wilt your winter wanderlust. In keeping with the 2020 custom of taking your experiences online, a new browser extension is letting people experience Christmas walks from around the world, albeit through a screen.

Tab With a View, a Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge extension, offers users the chance to take a walk down a snow-carpeted street in Germany, pass by festively-decorated houses, or down a boulevard with leafless cobalt-lit trees in Japan. All you have to do is open a new tab.

The extension, which will feature its Christmas edition until Saturday, December 26, currently offers more than 2,000 videos and photos from 83 countries around the world. The visual media has all been taken by users of Tab With a View. Flight information, as well as real-time Covid-19 statistics and visa requirements are shown with each respective photo or video. So, when the time comes to travel freely again, the project can offer more than a virtual vacation.

When Rahul Sharma, the project’s founder, first came up with the idea for Tab With a View in 2017, he of course didn’t expect a pandemic would bring the world to a standstill, leaving many around the world grounded for much of the year.

The project, instead, was meant to be a sort of inventory of places from around the world with a nice view, including hotels, restaurants and nightspots.

“My basic problem is that whenever I go on holiday, I like to have a room with a view or a go to a restaurant with a view,” the product manager, who lives in Germany, says. So, he decided to start a platform himself to help him quickly find the places with the best views, and in June 2019, Tab With a View was born.

“At first it was just a small circle of friends using it,” Sharma says. “It was really just for fun. But this year, after getting a lot of encouragement from friends and users, I decided to put more effort into it. And then the pandemic happened.”

The pandemic threw a wrench in Sharma’s plans, and he found himself trying to think of a way to reshape the project to better fit the times. It turned out he didn’t need to. Finding the extension offered them an escape from these claustrophobic times, people began downloading the extensions en masse. Soon thousands were using Tab With a View, and Sharma began receiving hundreds of videos from around the world to add to the project.

“It was really crazy. I wasn’t expecting it. Photos and videos were coming in from every corner of the world. Some were shot by handheld cameras, others by phones and even drones. There were videos from Africa to America, Asia to Europe. Sometimes I look at the analytics that we have and I get touched and overwhelmed,” he says.

Anyone can send a video or photo to be used on the extension, which will then go through a screening process to determine it meets the extension’s quality criteria.

“First of all it should be visually appealing, of course,” Sharma says. “That is they key criteria. We also require people share the exact location of the photo or video, otherwise it doesn’t work very well. We want users to be able to visit these places once we can travel again.”

The idea to feature a Christmas edition on the extension, Sharma says, came from users themselves. “Germany is under lockdown right now,” he says. “So there aren’t any marketplaces being held. A lot of people are missing that atmosphere. These videos help them get back in the spirit of things and remember how it was last year.”

At the end of the week, once the Christmas edition elapses, Tab With a View will return to showing regular videos and photos from around the world.

“I really want this to be a new way for people to plan their travels, once we can travel again, of course,” he says. “Those sending in their videos know their countries better than any tourist, so these videos are like suggestions of where to go and what to see. Places that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise.”

Tab With a View is available to download on the Google Chrome web store and the Microsoft Edge add-ons site.

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