10 Google Earth myths busted

Rich over at Google Earth Design has just published an entry titled “10 Myth Busting Facts about Google Earth“.
Over the years, we’ve covered most of these myths on Google Earth Blog, but it’s always good to re-post items like this to help out new users. Be sure to check out our Google Earth Basics page for a variety of tutorials.
Here Rich’s list of facts that many users aren’t aware of:
1 — You can make your own map in GEarth. Use the “Add” menu at the top of your screen to add placemarks, lines, and other items to the map.


2 — Google Earth isn’t just satellite images and roads. Use the “layers” on the side of your screen to find a lot more data to use; photos, Wikipedia entries, 3D buildings and much more.
3 — Any map you make in Google Earth is not visible to anyone else unless you publish it. While you can certainly use the items in #1 to create your own maps, those maps are private unless you share them with others via email, or by posting on a site like the Google Earth Community or Google Earth Hacks.
4 — You can publish your own map without going through Google. This is very similar to #3, but it’s from the opposite angle. Not only can you create your own maps, but Google doesn’t have to get involved at all. Create a map, share it, post it, email it, whatever. There’s no gatekeeper to go through to be able to share your maps.
5 — The satellite data in Google Earth is historic, i.e. its not imagery taken today. This is one of the most common myths: Google Earth imagery is live, and you can watch people in real-time. In fact, it’s not even close. Frank wrote an excellent post about this last year, and it’s worth reading to gain an understanding about the process of moving imagery from satellites to your computer.

6 — Google does not censor satellite imagery. While there are a few cases where they’ve censored imagery in the past (like around the White House), it’s far less common than most people think. The fact that companies like CNN still thinks it’s real-time (and actively censored) certainly doesn’t help…
7 — You can use Google Earth offline. You can browse an area of the map, let Google Earth store that imagery on your system, and then you can use it when you’re not connected to the internet. [details]
8 — You can tilt the view to see mountains in 3D. This is less of a myth than it once was, but it’s always worth mentioning; you can tilt your view to see 3D mountains and buildings. You can read this article for help getting started with it.

9 — Google Earth is not a security threat. Pointing back to items #5 and #6 on this list, Google Earth isn’t the security threat that people think it might be. Having access to aerial imagery isn’t a big deal for people that want it, and the fact that it’s months (or years) old makes it much less helpful. If Google Earth were to cease to exist, you could still get similar imagery from Google Maps, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, Mapquest and various others. Google Earth just has the best interface. 🙂
10 — You can use Google Earth to explore other Planets, the Sky and History. Recent versions of Google Earth have added lots of great things to Google Earth, including Mars, the moon, the night sky and historical imagery. These are all wonderful tools that are easy to access, but a lot of users don’t even realize that they’re there.

Be sure to check out his full list to see his comments on each item.
What other misconceptions about Google Earth do you encounter from others? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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.


  1. (private note to moderator…)
    The headline and prose use the word “myth”, but then you list “facts”, which is exactly the opposite… it took me a while to figure out that you were presenting the exact opposite. The “myth” in the title strongly implies that “You can make your own map” is a myth, so it’s hard to get out of that mindset when reading. It would go a lot smoother if you were to replace “myth” with “Little-known fact” or the like, in the title and elsewhere.

  2. The biggest question I get is the accuracy of map projections, ergo proper registration of imagery and objects on GE? Please post a resource that explains that, so that I and others can be clear!

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