Google updated some layers last night for both Google Earth and Google Maps. The primary change found so far is in the Geographic Web layer folder in Google Earth. When Google announces the official list of changes, I will provide an update.
- Panoramio – The Panoramio photo layer no longer has the blue circle icons which change to camera icons. Instead, there is a small square “photo” icon. The new smaller icon is less obtrusive when you zoom in close and therefore looks less cluttered in popular areas where there are lots of photos. Also, now the old camera icons are less likely to be confused with the StreetView icons. Not only have the icons changed, but also Google has added an additional 700,000 photos from the growing repository of uploaded photos at Panoramio (see blog post).
Wikipedia – The Wikipedia layer icon has been changed to the same icon used for Wikipedia in Google Maps (a white square with a “W” in it). And these icons are much smaller as well. Possibly too small. But, I’m glad they are being consistent between the two applications. I’m guessing an update to the database reflecting changes and additions at Wikipedia has also occurred as usual.
Places – There’s a new Places sub-layer which is a new combination layer. It contains information on places combining a brief text overview and link to Wikipedia, and photos from Panoramio. This makes for an attractive and concise placemark description. But, there are some things I don’t like about this new layer. First, because it uses a larger gray square icon which looks very similar to the new Panoramio layer. I wish that it was at least a different color to better distinguish it from the other icon. And, second, it seems somewhat redundant in some situations. You get combinations of Places, Panoramio, and Wikipedia icons all for the same place.
Too small! – I think the new icons are too small at some zoom levels. That, combined with the similarity of the new icons, makes it hard to both see the icons and distinguish the different types. In the screenshot thumbnail, you can barely see there are lots of icons. If you click on the thumbnail and see the full resolution screenshot, you can still have trouble seeing them. At least on my high resolution screen. Or maybe its just my aging eyes? I do think they should use larger icons when zoomed further out and convert to the smaller icons when clutter and image obscurity is more of an issue. They are already handling the clutter by presenting fewer icons at higher zoom levels.
China Road Maps – For the first time that I’m aware, Google has added street road maps for China. You can find them in Shanghai and Beijing in Google Maps (not in Google Earth yet). I’m sure Beijing was a priority in anticipation of the Olympics. Although, in China I think you’re required to use China approved maps only, and Google has a different road map when used in that country.
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Thanks to GEB readers Chris D. for the tip on the new GE layers, and Frederic for the tip on the China maps.