Microsoft Needs to Share Data with Google

Ok, this isn’t a serious business recommendation. But, I sure wish the cool data Microsoft has been generating for Virtual Earth could be combined with Google Earth. Microsoft’s Bird’s Eye views, quality aerial photography, and auto-generated 3D buildings are really nice to look at. It’s just too bad the Virtual Earth user interface isn’t better. Microsoft has been spending an enormous amount of money acquiring the technology, buying the airplane time, and the computing resources to process and host their imagery. And, the results are really spectacular. This week, Microsoft released a ton of new imagery, and 60 new cities with 3D buildings. Since they were good enough to capture the Raleigh, North Carolina area – where I live – with new aerial, Bird’s Eye, and 3D buildings, I decided to make a little video showing how nice this new data looks. Some important notes:

  1. Using a 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator 3D mouse makes using Virtual Earth much better. I rarely used Virtual Earth until they started supporting it. Microsoft needs to improve the user interface for non-SpaceNavigator owners – or they need to give everyone a SpaceNavigator for Christmas!
  2. The Bird’s Eye views in the 3D mode of Virtual Earth are really cool. The white rectangles show you available photos, and you just click to load them up. Notice you can click the rotation buttons to get different angled views.
  3. The upload process compresses the video so it doesn’t look as good as when you view it on your screen. Also, the video capture process loses some frames, so it actually updated a bit more smoothly – at least on my computer.

So, here’s the video I’ve made of Virtual Earth showing Raleigh, North Carolina:

Thanks Microsoft! Now, would you pretty please create an API for your data for Google Earth?

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.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. I figured you’d be excited about the new 3D in Raleigh. Good video.

  2. The opposite could be asked. Google needs to share it’s data. Allow others access to it outside of Googles own api.
    Sure would be nice to view all of Google’s data in Worldwind or something else!!
    Personally “need” may not be the right word choice. “Would like” or something similar may be more appropriate.
    If I was Microsoft person and saw this post. My first response would be….need!! Need this!! With the “hi sign”.

  3. No problem, Frank!
    We will release such an API just after Google releases their API for GE data to use in Virtual Earth (and World Wind, ArcGis Explorer, etc.) 🙂

  4. Jeffrey Johnson says

    This is wishful thinking Frank, but in general, Microsoft does MUCH more to align their efforts with Open Standards, and has a less hairy TOS, so I dont see why it would be terribly difficult to draw VE tiles in GE, but I havent seen this done yet.

  5. I doubt it will ever happen. Microsoft won’t share that easily pictures they probably paid a lot to get.

  6. Why should Microsoft?
    It’s not like Google does, right?
    And since they’re both competitors, I doubt they would do such a thing.
    Personally, I find Google Earth a strain on my computer, just as much as iTunes.

  7. Ernst M. Kofler says

    “Microsoft Needs to Share Data with Google”.
    I second that!

  8. Data licenses would prohibit it, since MS didn’t pay for Digital Globe imagery — as Google did not pay for Bird’s Eye imagery, etc.

  9. I wish they did share their data with google. That would be the most awesome map in history, sadly they will never share with a competitor.

  10. Google doesn’t allow anyone to use its data. Microsoft already does: there is a Virtual Earth plugin for World Wind.
    So who’s the one who should open up here?

  11. Here is a research project that may be similar to how Virtual Earth builds its cityscapes. They don’t cite VE so they probably don’t participate in it.
    How does one find 3D examples like you have shown? Do you have special access through Microsoft? Apparently, VE is not a publicly accessible client like Google Earth, but an enterprise solution?

  12. I beg to differ on the merits of ‘openness’ concerning Virtual Earth to World Wind.
    It’s very limited in what data can be pulled into NWW. And trust me — the higher-end data-providers would eat Microsoft alive if they made their data accessible without an appropriate agreement. And any data that can be pulled-in for display in any of the viewers are subject to only non-commercial use. A number of the datasets being pulled into NWW, for example, are strictly prohibited beyond non-commercial use — though I occassionally run into those with a misconception that people can simply hack the tiles out and save them to disk to be redistributed. That’s a huge no-no.
    Making datasets accessible to look at, however, is more like a promotion of sorts for data-providers — which can help to incentivize enterprise licensing for commercial use.

  13. google share with Microsoft… holy cow, that would be a Christmas present.. sorry, will never happen!

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.