It is not surprising to notice that people are linking to locations using Google Earth on web sites all over the Internet. I write and provide links to Google Earth files almost every day. Every day people are adding links to Google Earth files in places like the WikiPedia which is a great resource and can really use a way to show locations and maps described in its contents.
However, there is something developing which I think is confusing to people. There is a huge variance at describing what it is you are linking to. Here’s some examples from the WikiPedia:
- “Map in Google Earth”
- “Places marked out as a Google Earth placemarks file”
- “plug-in for Google Earth”
- “KML File for Google Earth”
- “Google Earth placemark file”
- “Detailed placemarks of XXXX for Google Earth”
- “Google-Earth placemark”
- “Map of the XXX for Google Earth”
- “KMZ file”
On Google Earth Blog, I use…
On Google Earth Blog, I use a Google Earth logo icon to indicate when I have a link to a Google Earth file, and the mouse-over always describes the link as a “GE File”. I chose to do this because the attachments in the Google Earth Community used this method, but few other web sites are doing this. Google has released another icon for such use as well, but I stopped using it because it was too large for use within my blog (it made gaps in the text layout).
Another “problem” is that a Google Earth file can contain many different things: placemarks, network links, image overlays, paths, links, and many other forms of data for the descriptions. I guess the “problem” here is that Google Earth is basically a 3D Earth-oriented browser, and can contain many different forms of content. For a web browser everyone seems to understand when you say you have a “link to a web page”. But, when viewing a GE file you would rarely think of it as a “page”.
The file format of KML/KMZ is also confusing. KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language (Keyhole comes from the original name to the program we now know as Google Earth). Google has been slowly going away from the Keyhole name, but its legacy confusingly persists.
In my opinion, if Google Earth files are going to become even more pervasive, then a new way of referring to the files needs to become standardized. This might be facilitated by coming up with a new file name. For example, most people know what they are getting when they get a Zip file, or a Gif. I think the compressed version (KMZ) should be the standard Google Earth file. And I think the file extension should be renamed. Possible extension names: GEL (Google Earth Location file), GEM (Google Earth Mapping file), GMZ (GE Markup Compressed), GML (Google Earth Markup Language), or maybe just GEF (Google Earth File).
Here’s a thought, how about a “link to a Google Earth file”? Just some thoughts…
Another thought just occurred to me. What if Google supported GE files to be opened with Google Maps as well (to the extent the file will work there). Then, if you select a GE File your browser could default to either Google Earth, or to Google Maps (since it works in almost any browser)?