The Year 2011 in Google Earth

Google Earth had a tremendous year in 2011. Our most popular story of the year, by far, was from people searching for Osama bin Laden’s compound in May. There was also quite a bit of interest in resources for the Japanese earthquake, as Google Earth is an excellent platform to share imagery and information for an event like that.
Here’s a quick look back at the biggest stories for each month of 2011.
There wasn’t any major Google Earth news in January, but we saw cool things like Louis Zamperini’s journey mapped in Google Earth and Google hosted the 2011 GSA Penrose Conference.
Google brought art galleries into Street View and GeoEye provided some amazing imagery of the protests in Egypt.

Egypt protests

Google was quick to respond to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami with high-resolution post-earthquake imagery shortly after the disaster and 3DConnexion sold their one millionth 3D mouse.
This month Google made some great enhancements to the mountain layer in Google Earth and we got some fresh imagery from the tornadoes that ravaged Alabama.
alabama tornado

Google added 3D building support for Android tablets and people flocked to Google Earth to try to see Osama bin Laden’s compound.
More 3D trees started appearing in a few cities and fresh imagery was released from the Nabro Volcano in Africa.
Nabro Volcano

July brought the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu, South Sudan became a new country and the final space shuttle launch was tracked in Google Earth.
In August we showed you some fresh imagery of the damage from Hurricane Irene and we explored the true size of the Stone Mountain carving.
Stone Mountain

Google Earth 6.1 was released, bringing some nice new KML features with it. We also looked at the past, present and future of the World Trade Center complex in New York on the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Peter Olsen created an excellent 3D model of the MLK National Memorial and Google Earth reached the one billion download milestone.
MLK National Memorial

We took an early look at the 2012 London Olympic venues and enjoyed the cool new Fluid Nebula tool for Google Earth.
We played with Google Earth on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and saw a new island being formed in the Red Sea by a volcano.
new island

It’s been another amazing year for Google Earth. What was your favorite story of the year?

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. Paul Burani says:

    There’s one thing that happened in 2011 which kinda bummed me out — updates to the Google Earth app for iPad changed the way that Panoramio images are accessed, basically making it really difficult to add a photo to your favorites. Zooming around the planet and bookmarking photos is basically the coolest thing you can do… any thoughts on when/how Google will make this easier?

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