Google Earth Mashups on a Web Page Starting Today

[UPDATE: Links to more information and a video]
Google I/OExciting news! Today Google is releasing a Google Earth plug-in which will let developers make Google Earth 3D applications run in your browser. In addition, a Google Earth API (Application Program Interface) is being released for developers based on Javascript. This API will allow developers to control many features of the 3D plug-in and add KML features and interfaces to their web applications. It is something many developers have wanted to see made available for Google Earth for a long time. It’s a way to add Google Earth’s fantastic 3D views and KML presentation capabilities in a browser and on a web page. You will soon see Google Earth mashups on the web with many more applications than ever before. It’s appropriate the release is happening at the opening of the Google I/O developer conference.
Today’s release is NOT converting the entire Google Earth application, complete with UI, into a browser. In fact, the Google Earth application will not have to be present for the plug-in to run. Developers will have to create applications, and enable UI features, that take advantage of the plug-in before users will see the greater benefits. I will post demos here as soon as the plug-in and demos are available.
A plug-in binary will be available today (Windows only so far). The plug-in reportedly will run in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other Mozilla-derivative browsers. In addition, the Google Earth API is designed so developers can easily develop applications using the new plug-in. Current Google Maps mashups can offer the 3D option to their applications by adding a single line of code. So now many cool Maps mashups can be 3D-enabled very easily. This should also enable new Google Earth mashups to take advantage of many Google Maps API features which have been introduced in recent months. And, it should get rapid support from Google Maps mashup developers.
The new plug-in is NOT Google Earth in a wrapper. It is a subset of the Google Earth 3D graphics rendering engine and interfaces with KML support. It DOES include support for the recently added Day/Night mode, 3D models, layers, and even supports the Sky mode. Users will not have to have the full Google Earth application installed to use web applications based on the new API and plug-in. However, the new plug-in will not have all the same features as the full Google Earth client. But, developers will be able to use the API to turn on many features and content (like the nav gadgets, 3D models, add lines and polygons, and turn on/off layers) and enable new kinds of features not seen in the full application.
Google appropriately targeted this release for the Google I/O developer conference. They plan to support the other platforms (Mac OS X, and Linux) in future releases. There will be sessions today at Google I/O which will provide details to developers about the new API. And I’m sure there will be online documentation as well. Soon GE mashup developers will know how to create applications for the new plug-in. Look for more posts today on these topics.
One of the key designers behind the new Google Earth plug-in and API is Paul Rademacher who was the guy who first developed a Google Maps mashup before Google released an API. It’s somehow fitting that the first Maps mashup developer is the designer for the new Google Earth mashup generation.
[UPDATE June 6th: See more thoughts on the API and what it means.]

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. Soo…..Is this the beginning of the end for the standalone Google Earth application? I know right now it can not do everything the standalone application can do…but what about in another year or two?
    At some point the only thing that will differentiate the two is the ability for the stand alone application to support local files. Is that enough for Google to continue to support it?

  2. I already love it. But I also love to crash parties ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be possible that Google Earth is started at the same time when you have the plugin already open in your browser. (Firefox in my case.) GE crashes pretty ungracefully during startup, and I had to use my friendly Task Manager to close it completely.
    I also wonder whether it would be possible to store settings. About:config in Firefox would be the ideal location. Zooming in is way too slow with the mouse wheel.

  3. I would be interested to know if it will ever support the tour fly through mode and also if there is video content can this still be used?

  4. Very nice, and can confirm that for sites with existing Maps API itโ€™s very easy to add (a change to one line and addition of one other). for an example.

  5. Great news. I’m sure someone will do it, but there are situations where it would be nice if someone could email you a kml/kmz file and you would have the option to open it in either the Earth web version or in Google Earth. ie, for people who can’t have Google Earth installed for security reasons. I’m sure this has already been done with a short piece of Javascript, somewhere…

  6. @Joe
    I suspect the Plugin version of GE will be no easier to install on locked down computers than the full standalone version, its still a program that installs to local hard disk.
    Also for the plugin to view a KML/Z file it will need to be availble online – can’t read local files.
    Along the same lines there would be no benefit to viewing it in the plugin. That been said I do have a simple application[1] that can load any KML/Z file found online. And the plugin ‘could’ be used by something like Gmail to ‘preview’ a attached KML/Z file – before launching the full GE, but not really sure of the benefit?

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.