64-bit Chrome drops support for Google Earth Plugin

We told you in July about the Chrome team’s announcement last year that they planned to remove NPAPI support from Chrome by the end of 2014. This includes the Google Earth plugin that uses NPAPI.

Last week, on Tuesday, August 26, 2014, Google released a 64-bit version of Chrome which does not support 32-bit NPAPI plugins, including the Google Earth plugin. I have tried out the new 64-bit Chrome and can confirm that the plugin does not work. It does let you try to install it, but to no avail. And there are no appropriate error messages, so presumably sites using the Google Earth plugin can expect an increase in support calls.

So, if your website uses the Google Earth plugin, what alternatives are available? Well, it seems that at present, there are not many. You can offer your data as KML files, which users can download and view in Google Earth. But then you lose all the benefits of embedding it in a web page, including all the functionality that the plugin’s JavaScript API allows. So although this might suffice for sites merely using the plugin to display data, for the majority of sites it will not do.

Google Maps now has ‘Earth Mode’, which allows you to view satellite imagery and tilt the view to see it in 3D. It is based on WebGL, which is the modern way to do things. But it is not yet a replacement for the Google Earth Plugin:

  • Its performance is terrible in comparison to the plugin.
  • It lacks the ability to display KMLs other than via a complicated route through Google Earth Engine – which requires a licence, except for very small data-sets.
  • Although Maps has a JavaScript API, it has very different functionality from the plugin’s API.
  • It does not show 3D models – only the new type of 3D imagery that consists of a single mesh.
  • Navigation is difficult, with less sophisticated controls than the plug-in.

It is likely, however, that improvements to the WebGL 3D in maps will be the way forward, although I have not seen any statements from Google as to what their plans for the future are.

Great sites like:

and many others we have talked about over the years, will be impossible to make without the Google Earth plugin.

Flight simulator online
Flight Simulator Online

youbeQ
youbeQ, a free multiplayer driving and flight simulator

So if you are still using a browser that works with the plugin, then try them out while you still can! [UPDATE by Frank Taylor: you can install the 64-bit version of Chrome and also still keep the 32-bit version of Chrome installed. So you can keep running the GE-plugin on Chrome. Or, you can run another compatible browser such as Firefox.]

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.



Comments

  1. Yeah, I am about to archive the GE applications on Planetinaction.com having it not work everywhere isn’t a good look. Better to put them out of sight. Instead I will prominently publish the new maps based ships 2 career.

    Google maps in 3D can not yet be controlled via the maps api for as far as I am aware.

    This leaves a big gap in functionality we once had. I understand that everything comes to an end but this is a bit of a lame way to end it all.

  2. ” I have not seen any statements from Google as to what their plans for the future are.”

    But have you ever? Although it may help keep the comments section active :-)

    Very ill advised move, however, until something better is developed.

  3. I just don’t get the “force everyone to upgrade to cars by shooting all the horses” mentality when they haven’t actually yet produced a viable replacement. They’re making us walk until someone invents the supposed car someday. It’s not progress if there isn’t a next step. Canvas/WebGL just isn’t there yet. I’m sure developers are scrambling to make it as good as a Google Earth plugin, but … oh well, there’s just no point in complaining.
    That said, the future is immensely bright. 3D browser graphics isn’t going away, it’ll only get bigger. I can wait and prepare.

  4. Google doesn’t want to take their GE API experiment any further, because if they do, we’ll all be playing Call of Duty: Earth in no time. PlanetInAction, youbeQ, and that Geoception UAV game you covered are all along those lines — envisioning a Google Earth Game Engine. That kind of thing is a military-only application, I’m afraid. So Katya, they are shooting the horses, reserving all the cars for the police, and telling the rest of us to go back to riding bikes.

  5. I made so many applications (more than 200!) by Google Earth plugin, I feel very helpless! Yes, I will offer my KML files to be download, and offer youtube as possible!

    I just made an application (2014 – TAIWAN Action Asia 50)(http://en.gemvg.com/archives/541). There are 22 photos in the trail tour, they can show smoothly in Google Earth plugin. But they don’t in Google Earth, only when I press ‘pause’, show one photo, very unsmoothly! I try put these photos in KMZ file or on my server, the same! Someone help me?

  6. Bike = mobile/Android only .
    That’s the only device that matters to them, because of Android of course. For them there’s no point in having services that run better on non-android systems / hardware.

  7. Google Earth is slowly dying? More and more features are added to Google Maps…

    • Google Earth to Google maps, …. is one of the worst “product transitions” I have witnessed with loss of previously amazing 3D performance/capability. It is hard to believe that a multi-$billion company can have such lack of vision in the 3D imagery world… For example, the integration of the previous 3D models with their new lidar generated imagery could still be amazing if they just added some basic masking capability. Does anyone know who is leading their Google Earth/Map team?

      • I was such an avid fan of the Google Earth capability for modelling buildings/communities… and so looking forward to the progress that could have happened this past 2 years…

  8. We tried some of our GE tours that used the embed tour gadget (plugin) and nothing comes up in three different browsers on a Mac. It looks to us like the tour gadget is broken. Has anybody else experienced problems?

    kt

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