Which street scene is more beautiful? A website endeavors to answer that question.

Before Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg launched a Hot or Not-type website that got him into trouble with the Harvard administrative board. The site, Facemash, pitted photos of two Harvard girls against each other, with students ranking them according to levels of "hotness." The site model may seem a bit antiquated (the dubious ethics behind its content is beyond dispute at this point), but here we are, with Beautiful Streets, which pairs two randomly selected Philadelphia streets and asks the user to decide which is more beautiful. 

"What makes a beautiful street, or a pleasant neighborhood?," the site asks. "Maybe that’s hard to define, but can you tell a beautiful place from somewhere that’s not so hot?" What turns out to be another outlet of fleeting distraction can actually provoke some interesting insights.

When presented, for example, with a shabby collection of old row homes or immaculate suburban lawns, do you immediately go for the "urban" street or for the cul-de-sac, and why? Are you faced with the dilemma of restraining your nostalgic or base aesthetic impulses in favor of your educated opinions? Maybe? OpenPlans, the makers behind Beautiful Streets, want to see how digital tools such as Street View help shape urban planning projects. The group also hopes to "experiment" with the data it collects from user responses (like Zuckerberg?) and posts the results on the site for all to download (definitely not like Zuckerberg).

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

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