New Layers and Photos for Google Earth

New icons/layers in Google EarthGoogle updated some layers last night for both Google Earth and Google Maps. The primary change found so far is in the Geographic Web layer folder in Google Earth. When Google announces the official list of changes, I will provide an update.

  • Panoramio – The Panoramio photo layer no longer has the blue circle icons which change to camera icons. Instead, there is a small square “photo” icon. The new smaller icon is less obtrusive when you zoom in close and therefore looks less cluttered in popular areas where there are lots of photos. Also, now the old camera icons are less likely to be confused with the StreetView icons. Not only have the icons changed, but also Google has added an additional 700,000 photos from the growing repository of uploaded photos at Panoramio (see blog post).
  • Wikipedia – The Wikipedia layer icon has been changed to the same icon used for Wikipedia in Google Maps (a white square with a “W” in it). And these icons are much smaller as well. Possibly too small. But, I’m glad they are being consistent between the two applications. I’m guessing an update to the database reflecting changes and additions at Wikipedia has also occurred as usual.

  • Places – There’s a new Places sub-layer which is a new combination layer. It contains information on places combining a brief text overview and link to Wikipedia, and photos from Panoramio. This makes for an attractive and concise placemark description. But, there are some things I don’t like about this new layer. First, because it uses a larger gray square icon which looks very similar to the new Panoramio layer. I wish that it was at least a different color to better distinguish it from the other icon. And, second, it seems somewhat redundant in some situations. You get combinations of Places, Panoramio, and Wikipedia icons all for the same place.

  • Too small! – I think the new icons are too small at some zoom levels. That, combined with the similarity of the new icons, makes it hard to both see the icons and distinguish the different types. In the screenshot thumbnail, you can barely see there are lots of icons. If you click on the thumbnail and see the full resolution screenshot, you can still have trouble seeing them. At least on my high resolution screen. Or maybe its just my aging eyes? I do think they should use larger icons when zoomed further out and convert to the smaller icons when clutter and image obscurity is more of an issue. They are already handling the clutter by presenting fewer icons at higher zoom levels.

  • China Road Maps – For the first time that I’m aware, Google has added street road maps for China. You can find them in Shanghai and Beijing in Google Maps (not in Google Earth yet). I’m sure Beijing was a priority in anticipation of the Olympics. Although, in China I think you’re required to use China approved maps only, and Google has a different road map when used in that country.

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Thanks to GEB readers Chris D. for the tip on the new GE layers, and Frederic for the tip on the China maps.

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. Google have updated there Ireland road maps!

  2. Cord Frederic Romberg says

    the china street maps in beijing and shanghai seem to be a little odd, when you look @ the satellite footage in google maps and the new street maps you notice that the street don’t always actually match… weird???
    and i think the chinese policy is a shot in their own foot… that way they actually hinder progress exponentially! if companies like google/teleatlas can drive around and really accurately map china it’s in everybody’s interst to get good and exact maps…

  3. Cord Frederic Romberg says

    in the last years i travelled a couple of times to china, and i have to say i’m actually not encouraged by the official chinese political situation… the maps situation is just the tip of the iceberg. i hope that the olympics will be a staging ground for a new wave of protest by the chinese and others to protest the current political system.
    tibet is just one aspect. the poor that get chased from their land in order to sustain “progress”, then all the other minorities that get the chinese treatment… all very scary…

  4. Good call Frank. I too have noticed the new icons are difficult. Color was better IMO to tell what was what. I do like the look, but the shades of blue and white are just too difficult for me to figure out what I’m looking at.
    The places layer I think is superb, but as you note it looks too much like the photos layer.

  5. Hi, I live in Mar del Plata (Argentina) and GE has added the street names today. There arent all the names, and some are a little unsynchronized (i dont know the right word to describe this), but i hope you can understand what im saying. Thanks for the blog. Saludos, Luqui.

  6. Hi, I just checked and the added the street names in all major cities of Argentina (Cordoba, Rosario, Capital Federal, Mar del Plata, etc) Just wanted to update my last comment. In every city Im seeing the street names a little out of place. Could it be that its the first time they post them and they will eventually adjust them? or could it be that they were traced based on a new set of imagery that hasnt been published yet? (Current imagery goes from 2003 to 2004, it would be really nice if they update it). I have one las question, my city Mar del Plata in Google Maps is named “The River Plate Mar del Plata”, when the real name is only “Mar del Plata”, is there any e-mail or some sort of form to suggest they correct that? Thanks! Saludos!

  7. Yes, now motorways are depicted in the UK and Ireland with Blue lines which is a good thing being similiar to our local mapping. However I notice that local roads in Ireland do not appear until you are right over them (around 100m elev). Before they showed up from a much higher altitude.
    The boundaries and roads layer for Ireland needs improvement. The Dublin Port Tunnel is part of the M50 Motorway not the “N1”. The M1 Motorway also does not go inside the M50 orbital motorway.
    The Boundary of County Meath runs around the southern environs of Drogheda before rejoining the River Boyne(Microsoft VE have nearly got it right for an example), Google’s depiction of this is miles and miles off, they say the towns of Bettystown and Laytown are in County Louth for some reason(even though I reported this about 4 times over a year). The online Google error reporting page appears to be pointless as significant errors are not acknowledged, followed up or changed even after a year.

  8. smokeonit says

    i think argentina got a 2st minor street level update, but it’s a far cry from perfect!
    but it’s better than nothing…
    i tried to find calle cabello, in Bs.As., but it dodn;t find it on its own;-( (my brother lives in calle cabello)
    so google has to do a lot of tweaking there…
    normally google maps comes first with the street level layer, which is kind of odd since GM is still not showing anythin besides country border and sat footage for argentina…
    regards from germany

  9. and china is almost ALL bigger cities, not just beijing and shanghai!
    i also didn;t investigate further, but after checking a few cities besides shanghai and beijing it seems that google is trying to cover all of china…
    but the map layer is about 200-300m to the east of the actual sat layer, which hopefully is correct… that;s a huge bummer… 200-300m is a LOT!!!

  10. Why not let the users decide which dots to use? It is really annoying to lose the blue and purple dots. The faded colors make it really hard to spot them.

  11. I agree, the icons are too small.
    the Places are useful for me, when “traveling” over the earth most of the time I switched panoramio, wikipedia and youtube on and off together.
    Google should link the “more photos” to a camera position of this area, showing more Panoramio icons. This would increase the experience of reading some information while browsing through a 3D world.
    I’d like to see the photos while flying around with my spacenavigator, like photooverlay.

  12. smokeonit says

    xenonice has the perfect solution:
    google should let us customize our icons…
    the same applies to the real time GPS module in GE plus… there’s no control over the color of the track or the type of icon…

  13. Smokeonit: I don’t mind GPS tracks always importing as cyan. I always change them to a different color anyway.
    And, I agree that it would be nice to let us change the icons for Panaramio, etc., if we like. As it is, I’ve changed the compass per a post on either this blog or Stephan’s. I saved off the change so I can apply it to each new update of GE.

  14. If you were to dig into the earth for a long period of time, how would you know if have reached another layer?

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.