Google Earth API /plugin finally coming to an end

Google has announced that they are finally shutting down the Google Earth API /plugin on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. They first announced its deprecation in December 2014, giving it a year. In December 2015, they gave it a temporary reprieve, which is finally running out.

The Google Earth API is based on an old technology called the NPAPI plugin framework and is primarily intended to allow Google Earth to be run in a browser and controlled with JavaScript. However, it has been used in some desktop apps as well. The NPAPI plugin framework is considered outdated and insecure by most browser vendors, and some, including Google Chrome, have dropped it altogether. Others, such as Firefox (32-bit), allow you to use it but only after specifically allowing the plugin to run.

We will miss it, as it was a good way to access information about historical imagery and we used to create imagery update maps using it. However, since June, Google has not updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer (other than the recent addition of the global Landsat/Sentinel mosaics)

Google Earth 4
At the same time, Google is ending support for Google Earth 4. Anyone running Google Earth 4 will no longer be able to access imagery from January 11, 2017. The current latest version is

If you absolutely need an older version, you can download older versions going back to Google Earth 5.0 here.

Here’s hoping Google can come up with a new Google Earth API that allows us to control Google Earth and query its data.

One of the uses we had for the Google Earth API was studying [historical imagery density](One of

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.


  1. Not with windows 10 they ain’t. Dad has been with computers longer then I have back in the Commodore 64 days and was one of the first to go on the internet back then known as the *web* which was BBS and you went to Q-Link to go anywhere.

    Windows 10 and Apple to some extent are all returning to the era of the terminal where you have no memory on your computer. The rich elite have decided due to piracy we should NOT be allowed to own anything and all media controlled digitally outside.

    In the old days home computers COULDN’T have much memory. Commodore 64 only had 64K of RAM but they packed what they could into that and often times it showed if the programmer used the C64 kernel.

    Now with smartphones you have to ALWAYS be online and have very little internal memory storage much like the early terminal days. You had your workstation terminal that connected to a master server.

    Today we call it *Cloud Computing* which is essentially a super master computer you connect your smartphone or new desktops too which MS is trying to force rental fees instead of paying it once and own it on a couple computers or be allowed to create one back up copy.

    Google Earth will be too big for a smartphone and too hard to navigate on such tiny keys. Most smartphone users also don’t have the attention span for it.

  2. If what you say can’t be done in two sentences they will tune you out and go elsewhere. Yes it’s that bad with the smartphone crowd. You don’t ever get to OWN your smartphone unless you don’t mind it being a brick when you stop making payments.

    You can’t keep anything offline that you did on the internet for later usage. If you stop payments your phone is a brick and might as well toss it.

    The rich like it that way because otherwise we would become more wise about the ways of the world so that way they control the news they send us.

    If they like Obama they will give news that only favors him and discredits any critics thru having the loudest voice.

  3. (Goes to the tune of Whatever You Can Do I can do better)

    (shows two competitors which both phones are actually a piece of crap)

    Whatever your smartphone can do mine is smarter! No it’s not! Yes it is! No It’s not! Yes It Is!

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