Philosophy Behind Google Earth and Maps

IEEE Computer Graphics Magazine coverThis week seems to be a good week to learn more about the technology and approaches behind the Google Earth/Maps applications. First we had one of the founders, Avi Bar-Ze’ev, of Keyhole publish an article on how Google Earth works and how it gets such smooth visualizations. It turns out, that Michael Jones – another founder of Keyhole, and now the Chief Technologist of Google Earth – has published an interesting article in the IEEE “Computer Graphics and Applications” magazine. It’s a subscription magazine, but we’re fortunate the article is available in PDF form. The article is called “Google’s Geospatial Organizing Principle” (PDF, 2.4 MBytes). In this article, Michael describes some of the philosophy behind the Google geospatial team’s mission to “geospatially organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Much of the article centers around the concepts of how Google is helping people find geospatial information (with Google Earth and Maps) and gives many examples of information that goes way beyond just a simple location (such as an address, city, or country). Examples such as how Google Earth has been used for disaster relief, to help demonstrate environmental issues, or even monitoring viruses. It points out why people so joyfully embrace not only the ability to see the places in their lives, but why its important to be able to share the information. I think this is an excellent article which reveals some powerful thinking from one of the key people behind Google’s geospatial technology strategy. With this kind of thinking, I’m sure Google will be continuing to develop new and useful tools and features for Google Earth and Maps. Nice work Michael!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Cristina says:

    Hi! I have one question. I want to know if a “personal google earth” exists. I love traveling and I would like to have my oun google earth to classify my pictures and organize future trips. For me it’s like a map where you prick an stick and where you can organize your pictures.
    Thank you very much

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