About the changes to the “Places of Interest” layer

A few days ago, we showed you some changes that Google had made to the Places of Interest layer in Google Earth. 100+ comments later, it was clear that most of you are unhappy with the changes that were made. The good news is that Google is listening.
Below is a brief statement I just received from Matt Holden, Product Manager on the Earth Team.
On March 19, we made some changes to the Google Earth layers panel intended to make browsing easier, particularly for casual users of Google Earth. While we’re excited about our new “Places of Interest” layer, with more descriptive icons, we’ve heard many complaints from some of our most loyal users and acknowledge that we made some mistakes in this release, which we are working to address as soon as possible. In particular, we realize we have taken away some important features, and we are working on returning those to our users shortly.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your feedback.
Matt Holden
Product Manager
Google Earth Team

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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 appreciate that you are listening! I LOVE that you have moved the “Places of Interest” icon to the top. However, that is the only change I love! I use Google Earth every day in my work. I need to locate schools, churches, parks, etc. where we install commercial playground equipment. I also use Google Earth to locate hotels when our crews travel out of town. All of that is lost! I opened Google Earth this morning to find a hotel and much to my dismay, I can no longer click on just “lodging” (I also like the hotel icon – the bed – in red, not teal blue, it is difficult to see in the blue.) PLEASE, PLEASE return the ability to locate only ONE place of interest at a time. Again, thanks for listening.

  2. Jeff Craig says

    What are all of these changes to Google Earth? So far the changes make the product WORSE. Not only are the changes to Places of Interest unacceptable, but what happened to showing the push-pins that correspond to the locations in My Places. Is there a comprehensive list of the new features AKA bugs recently introcuded into Google earth. I’m sure all of your users, old and new, would like to know.
    Thank you.
    Jeff Craig
    Sr. Network Analyst
    Cal State University, Northridge

  3. There are great differences between the two versions.
    I quickly saw what was worse.
    I did not find what is best …
    This is the first time a Google product is in the wrong direction!
    A little hope with this post.

  4. Paul van Dinther says

    I am not fussed by moving a bunch of layers around in the GUI but Matt, can you please see to it that dynamic objects such as boats and planes end up on a separate layer or not be placed at all.
    With an update the objects no longer match the imagery and for applications dynamic objects get in the way.

  5. All the bus routes, light rail lines, stations and park and rides are gone from Portland. It was in the transportation layer in the places of interest section. HELP. Please bring it back.

  6. “Casual users” are people who use Google Maps. Anyone who goes to the trouble to download a separate application is more than just a casual user, and we want more control over the information available to us. This update amounted to a complete dumbing down of the interface. And really, what was so complicated about it? It was all right there in obvious categories. Anyone who wanted to see it all at once just needed to check the top-level box. The icons were already sufficiently different from one another that it was easy to tell them apart. Now, if anything, the icons are smaller and harder to distinguish! Moving POI to the top of the list makes sense, but eliminating the features that make Google Earth stand apart from competing products is just absurd! Bing Maps even has different categories for “what’s around”, more than can be said of Google Maps. I appreciate that Google is listening to its users here, but really listen to what we’re saying :
    There was nothing complicated about the old interface. If you want to make it easier for “casual users”, you don’t need to eliminate existing functionality. You can leave the POI flat checkbox at the top, but please, for the serious users, return the old categories, maybe even somewhere at the bottom so casual users don’t get “confused.”

  7. Oh awesome, just saw this. It’s great that they are listening to their users. I look forward to seeing the points of interest list back 😀

  8. dear GE team,
    can you make the island names as a separate layer?
    i don’t know about other countries, but in my country (Maldives), 90% island names are totally wrong and some even in wrong position.
    i need to keep the labels, just don’t wanna see the messed up island names.
    or you could correct it, there is a island names database i posted in keyhole years ago.
    please do this or that, it is really annoying.

  9. I would like to see the old points of interest layers brought back as soon as possible. I have read all of the comments and there appears to be no significant good that has come from the “enhancements”. From my perspective the best enhancement that Google Earth could implement is to listen to their Google Earth users and remedy this situation as soon as possible.

  10. Good to hear a response. I eagerly await the layers’ return!
    If there’s an upside to this, it’s that I’ve been prompted to look again for 3rd party data sources. Geonames and the National Atlas, for example. Seems like it should also be possible to generate useful files from recreation.gov’s XML data or Google Transit, but I’m not sure how.
    Also, this should call attention to the lack of metadata links for the POI layers.

  11. BrianfromLA says

    Please bring back the color of lines for subways and line right. It’s also very frustrating having to zoom in to see stations appear instead of zooming out so you can see the entire map of the system.

  12. M Cotgrove says

    I use Google Earth a lot to find hotels, in a large area, eg 50 miles. I just select hotels in the PoI layer, and then zoom in to a ‘good’ area. This is no longer possible.
    Please re-instate previous method

  13. Good to learn that Google is listening, and this is the opportunity to provide something which really does improve on the old PoI layers which were oftenconfusing and the panel which was cramped, rather than simply reinstating the old.
    “Places of interest” really no longer covers the whole range of information in the layer, under stating the business element (and monetizing opportunities), so I guess Google wrongly took the easy option of showing the “casual user” everything and hoping they will find a business one way or another.
    The layers interface (panel) needs a more intuitive click though hierarchy with user friendly graphics, structured perhaps with pop ups for more detailed categories, things like a ‘you may also be interested in …’ option, or even a full page option of the whole PoI categories with links to new metadata..

  14. Excellent! I’m thrilled to see you’ve listened to the comments. Hopefully you will have ‘Places of Interest’ so the locations can be filtered. Also, if the National Parks layer doesn’t make a comeback I’ll continue to be very disappointed. At the very least I would hope that the National Parks layer could be released as an optional plug-in. Thanks!

  15. Come on, it is free! If you rely on a free piece of software to locate places, then surley that’s at your own risk? You either choose to loose profit by paying for more consistent data source or not paying for data, and running the risk of it not being available?

  16. Jill Johnsey says

    Just wondering if anyone from Google might be able to give us an approximate DATE of when these “challenges” will be corrected? Like the posting from Jake S. on March 23, I too don’t want to go to another source to find information that I need. But if the Layers aren’t restored then I will have no choice. I can’t just sit here and hope something happens soon. I have a life. jill

  17. Alec TricFoxx says

    Thank you, folks at Google Earth, for listening to us. I would like to encourage you to always fight for the ability of your Digital Interactive Globe to never be censored in any way, because if you allow one group to censor one thing, then another group will have you do the same to something else.
    If it exists in real life, then it should exist in GE. We might be starting to rely on this application a bit much, and the world isn’t getting any smaller; there’s just more people in it. In order for those people to learn about our planet in ways that could otherwise not be possible, Google Earth steps up to the plate.
    Thanks, again for all of your efforts.
    P.S. Just put the Place of Interest back the way it was. Foxx, out. =^.^=

  18. PLEASE revert back to the old format for Places of Interest! That was my favorite feature from Google Earth and the feature that I used the most. It was so nice to be able to turn the layers on and off as I needed them. This new format is really not hard to find the specific places of interest I’m looking for. You have to zoom in and out repeatedly to find any specific item. Thank you for taking the time to read my comment.

  19. Hal Tibberrs says

    Thank You Matt Holden,
    The transportation layer was very important to what I do..
    Please do revert with older functions.

  20. PLEASE revert back to the old format for Places of Interest! I, too, used the multi layers of POI quite often. The Help website was not update with the ‘new’ POI release. I was going nuts, checking options & preferences, trying to get the POI folder to open. Looking for the view all layers option!!!

  21. Thank you, but it can’t be soon enough. My vacation starts tomorrow and I can’t do my research 🙁

  22. Oh, may the geek gods at GE come back to “EARTH”!…sometimes change is not good. Please bring back the “Places of Interest”…the way it was. Add content if you like, make the “all” places box active if you must for the “casual users” (so then us “experienced users” can turn off the irrelivant to our need places, and get back to utilizing this great tool for what it was…the best virtual map site…for now..

  23. I’m glad that Google is revising last week’s revision. However, while I may be alone in this reaction, reading ‘..While we’re excited about our new “Places of Interest” layer, with more descriptive icons..’ doesn’t fill me with confidence that they’ve actually heard what people’s objections were. Prettier icons aside – which frankly are irrelevant to the issue itself – how on Earth can the company seeking to organize all of the world’s information be excited by the removal of information? I hope that the statement is a face saving one, not their understanding of the problems. As Brandon said above, the Cliff Notes of GE already exists, in the form of Google Maps.
    I also hope that they are not planning to just return the National Parks borders and transits lines, and call it a day. Those are two individual layers that have merited a lot of specific complaints but not the only sublayers users want returned.
    Re: mrk’s comment on GE being a free product which users can’t be picky about. I have that reaction often enough myself to user’s dissatisfaction with free software. I use Google’s free image editing/organizing software (picasa) a lot and would not feel inclined to insist that the program work a certain way, since it does not appear to directly drive revenue to Google in any way. Google making GE available w/o purchase is a great thing that they deserve credit for. But GE in 2010 is not the GE they first released in 2005. In addition to great new features, the info balloons for those 25,000,000+ Panoramio photos come with sponsored ads. So do most of the POI balloons now. The imagery/information that they buy/license is used in Google Maps as well, which no one would debate is a commercial product. And frankly, had they actually said that maintaining the POI layer was not economically feasible anymore, I would have been disappointed but accepted the decision. But they didn’t say that; they called this loss of information an improvement, leaving one to wonder whether this was the ‘bright idea’ of someone in a new position etc.
    So, give us back the POI’s. We’ll keep the pretty icons though 😀

  24. I had a feeling you just might be nimble and responsive to the user community. I am very heartened to hear you’re listening and very interested to see if your “fix” aligns with what our visions of an enhancement in this area should look like.

  25. ‘Listening’ is nice, and no doubt fulfills the needs of some corporate checklist. Seriously, I do look forward to the return of National Park and National Forest borders and features.
    BUT, maybe the group manager should have deigned to ASK the lowly users before whacking features? If you need/want to trim the layers, why not setup a POLL and see what the masses really use and like? With management like this, Google is well on its way to becoming just another big, ugly, arrogant company. Is that what you want?
    I think (?) Trimble Trips and Everytrail are new. The’re appreciated, but they’re no replacement for what was lost.
    Thanks for the opportunity to rant! 🙂

  26. Arizona CJ says

    Thank you for listening!
    I am looking forward to the restoration. Until they were gone, I didn’t know just how much I relied on the old features. One of the biggest, for me, was the red hotel icons that were visible (in many cases) from high altitude (many miles) in rural areas. there was no better tool than google earth for finding lodging in rural areas: I can’t think of another way to determine as quickly which towns have lodging, and even better, where lodging that isn’t in towns at all is located.
    It was also superb to be able to shut off categories in POI: if I’m looking for a grocery store, I don’t want pharmacies, etc. This was especially needful for visually-impared folks like myself, who find the clutter of the current system maddening and so often unusable.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for listening and agreeing to undo the changes!

  27. HELP
    With the recent change I completely lost the ability for a decent individual trip planning through foreign countries. That reduces the attractivity of the tool considerably.
    I’m only glad that the community is fast and clear in its reaction.
    Please reinstall the dual functionality to either show all POIs or a selection of subcategories asap. Would appreciate an indication as of when this feature will be available again.

  28. These “enhancements” are ridiculous and make no since to me. The old “Places of Interest” set-up was MUCH better. I liked it and never had a problem with it. I have not seen one comment anywhere on the web from someone who likes the changes. Dear Google-Leave well enough alone!! Go back to the old set-up!!!

  29. I’m glad to hear that Google acknowledged the problems with these changes, but what is this “working to address” of which they speak? Every version control software I know of has the ability to revert changes. This could have been fixed at 8:10 Monday morning.

  30. Mark — Though they made some bad decisions with this update, they had some nice enhancements too. I’m guessing that they’re trying to keep the new enhancements and roll the old checkboxes into it. Can’t be sure, though.

  31. I loved the older style POI menu. You could select only the categories you were interested in and perform a very useful search. This is not possible with the new POI menu, which I’m very disappointed with. Please bring the old one back !!

  32. As a person with VCS expertise, I agree with Mark – If they really cared about restoring the features, they would have unmerged them – if they have any sort of process established, this would take very little time. I doubt they will return – and if they do, they won’t stay. The worst thing about this is that certain layers are entirely inaccessible now! They have one of the biggest pools of talent, and all they can do is remove features… moves like this remind me of apple. What to do?

  33. Well I’m glad you’re listening, and I can’t wait to get back my favorite features of google earth! Please, please, restore mapping boundaries of national parks/forests/preserves. That is 99% of the reason I use google earth. I was a premium user for years, and I would hate to delete this useful application (which is currently no longer useful).
    What is the timeline for restoring these mistakes?

  34. tony baker says

    add me to the list of unhappy users. I need the metro and bus stops around the world.

  35. Many thanks for reacting to the users’ reaction, is highly appreciated!
    Wishlist? Oh yes, please if feasible:
    POIs back, in particular transportation.
    Make roads customizable (ie, eg, only major roads or all roads, in colors I can choose — this would help avoiding optical confusion).
    Directions: optimally I would like to be able to choose, eg, “by car”, “on foot”, “no toll roads”, “scenic highway”, etc).
    More weather info like actual air pressure or wind zones.
    Weather info: make me choose in “Options” whether only info in Celsius or Fahrenheit.
    Show cloud movement over time.
    Show water surface temperature over time (I know, “somehow” works already).
    Possibility to map actual ship and aircraft movement (eg, info on vessels here: http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/default.aspx?level0=100).
    Make earthquakes customizable: eg, show only earthquakes >5 Richter or only ones occured between date 1 and date 2.
    Clear all those “youtubes” that are “misplaced” — there must be thousands of them!
    Flight simulator: insert overview map such that I know where I am.

  36. ACT Traveller says

    also add me to the list of unhappy users. I need the rail, tram and bus stops back – plus all the other selections that used to be in POI, – like the red bed (lodging) icon, very useful in Australia where accommodation is often long distances apart in regional areas.

  37. What happened to the geographic layer? I appreciate bringing the response in bringin a large amount of the “Places of Interest” category back but the geographic layer which included mountains, water bodies, etc. was not one of those. The data used to exist and now it is just non-existent. Hopefully this will return.
    And I second the transportation layer return, especially subway lines.

  38. Chris Coffee says

    I cannot believe what I am seeing here. Of all things in this world I thought that GE was something that could only get better. BOY WAS I WRONG!! Why in the world did they take away the Geographic Web? I used that feature more than any other on GE. I am an avid hunter, hiker, and explorer, and I used that feature to highlight mountain names, water bodies, meadows, etc. Without those features GE is absolutely worthless to me. How soon will we know what is and isn’t coming back? I don’t need to clutter up my laptop with this program if it is not going to have the features I use the most.

  39. Robert Gray says

    The key passion of Googele Earth is EARTH.
    Its about the EARTH: meaning GEOpysical, GEOgraphical, anything GEO-.
    The product should have LAKE names, MOUNTAIN names, and many other PHYSICAL EARTH Feature names (which it used to have).
    If not, then change the product name to reality, say, Google UrbanCulture.
    Your product is loved by everyone, even non-users love it; don’t diminish it.

  40. Wow………
    You have to be kidding me. Guys, I have an external GPS hooked to my laptop and I have real time tracking on my laptop that is filtered through GE. I se this when I am hiking on a small laptop. If I can no longer see the name of the mountain ranges that I am hiking or plan to hike, the GE platform is really worthless to people that use it for outdoor adventures. I also no logner see names of streams and lakes. Seems like a big step back. This was a big mistake but I have make my share of big mistakes in like. The only way to resolve them in throught constructive feedback. I hope you fix this an include the old data. If not, it seems that the GE platform just took several huge leaps backwards.

  41. Max Grogan says

    Please restore the transportation option, especially AIRPORTS and the little plane in the blue square. I, and a lot of other pilots who fly often use GE for the first step of flight planning. For several years I have used it almost daily to zoom into a destination and find the airport for a quick glance at the aerial photo. Then a quick measurement to the destination and a zoom out to look at the route of flight. That capability is lost unless I can move the pan around and find the airport in the aerial photo.

  42. Oh, PLEASE bring back the Geographic Layer!!! WE actually DO pay for the Pro version, and these changes makes Google Earth quite useless to us. This really is a step backwards.

  43. Please, please I beg of you:
    1) Re-subdivide the Places of Interest.
    I really don’t want my GE screen cluttered with several dozen icons for things I don’t care about, when all I want to look for is a single type of item, such as restaurants.
    2) Reinstate the public transportation icons (!!! why were these removed?!), and subdivide them as they were, so I can look for subway lines without also seeing every bus line or Amtrak, for example.
    Public transportation proximity to various places was one of my main concerns when using Google Earth.
    Thank you for listening.

  44. Frank Tecca says

    Please please bring back the golf course information. I relied on it all the time, especially when I travel. Why can’t it be placed in the “More” – “Place Categories” ??????

  45. Robert Revet says

    Please reinstate the previous version of public transportation, so I can select airports, rail lines, metrolines, ferrys, trams, busses etc individually!
    Also it would be nice to see the lines, not just stops or stations.

  46. I only see negative comments and I agree with almost all of them.
    Is anybody actually happy with the changes?
    And does the Product Management just listen or do they plan to react?

  47. so it’s been a month… what is the story on getting the darn POI layer back to normal? ETA???

  48. The update has taken place, although the “Places Of Interest” is still in its “enhanced” format.
    The original sub-cats are now listed in the “More” category. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to use the “enhanced” POI, and of course the “More” icon is back at the bottom. Oh well, at least they’re mostly back.

  49. I’m not happy with a number of the new icons, especially the houses of worship.
    If mosques can have a star and crescent, and synagogues can have a Star of David, why did churches lose CROSSES!?!?!?!?!? Is Google jumping on the liberal attitude of, “any religion is just fine – as long as it’s anything OTHER than CHRISTIANITY…”? Come on.
    You’ve subdivided the houses of worship icons into differnet general religions (generally a good idea), but while you can identify other religions with their characteristic symbols, you can’t identify Christian churches with a cross, as used to be the case?

  50. Google please put back lakes rivers and mountain names it makes Google earth useless to people who use Google earth with there GPS to plan outdoor actives.

  51. I have to agree with Ken who posted on April 23. I went to look for churches in my area and could not differentiate Christian congregations for other religions. While I can understand that the secular world doesn’t like the symbol of the cross, (The Apostle Paul said that the world sees it as a stumbling block and foolishness) It is difficult for me to fathom why it was the only religious symbol to be removed. Apparently this particular symbol is something that the decision makers at Google either fear or dislike so much, that it’s removal was deemed necessary. I’m very disappointed.

  52. Why did you change the symbol for Christian churches? As an urban planner involved with neighborhood planning, downtown planning and mass transit projects, knowledge of community instituions is critical. To not understand the role of churches in our neighborhoods and history is ignorance. To purposely remove Christian symbols while still allowing Jewish and Muslim symbols on maps, is intolerance and bigotry.

  53. It’s been more than 3 months since Matt Holden, Google Earth Product Manager, has acknowleged mistakes made with in a revision of Google Earth. Specifically with the Layers and taking away the ability to filter it to suit your search needs at the time.
    It’s nice that they made the acknowledgement but where it the fix? More than 3 months later and it’s still not any better. Like many others (note the large amount of complaints) I use the filters to locate hospitals where I travel for work. It’s a huge inconvenience to lose that ability and I’ve found it reduces Google Earth’s utility to just a novelty used to look at interesting geography once in awhile. Bring back the layers filter!

  54. Carl — Many of the layers have been restored under the “More” section of the layers. For example, the hospitals can be found under:
    more –> place categories –> hospitals
    I think Google’s plan with this is to keep the simple POI button up high for new users, but allow experienced users to dig through the “more” section to find what they need.
    It’s still missing a few items that used to appear in the POI list (like golf courses), but most of them can be found in there.

  55. I stand corrected (happily) and thank you for the information.

  56. I’m irritated by the changes I’m STILL seeing in Google Earth 5.1 – I’m just trying to get the answers to some geographical questions and these big red balloons keep popping up all over my map, telling me about a “reliable local plumber” who lives cities away from me, and an “accredited psychiatric counsellor” in the same location (just in case I need one of those, should I ever visit the place I’m looking at…) Every time I try to switch off this layer of balloons, it pops up AGAIN with the next search.
    What were you thinking? Did you do any testing at all with real end-users? If I wanted to find a plumber or a counsellor, I would ASK for one. I would search for it on Google or Yellow Pages, and use the map link there to start up Google Earth.
    This sort of thing can only make me willing to try out Microsoft’s alternatives. And Google beware, I’m a software developer… Microsoft’s map API is officially getting a foot in my door…

  57. yes to Google earth kindly put back lakes mountains and rivers name. it would be more easier and efficient to use. Thanks!

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.