The differences between Google Earth and Google Maps

Google Earth and Google Maps used to be very different products, but over the past few years they’ve become much more similar. This is largely due to the addition of new features to Google Maps, such as support for 3D Imagery and other features that used to only be available in Google Earth.

The folks at Social Bubble recently wrote a post that discusses some of the difference between Earth and Maps. That inspired us to take it a bit further and lay out some of the differences.

To start, there are a handful of similarities between both programs. They both feature the same satellite imagery, allow you to search for locations, save places and get directions. In addition, both feature Street View imagery.

Google Maps
Google Maps offers a few advantages over Google Earth. It keeps your data synced across devices, has excellent turn-by-turn navigation features, and allows you to go into the past with historical Street View imagery. They recently crossed the one billion download mark, a testament to how popular it is.

Google Earth
While Google Maps is more convenient when you’re on the go (largely due to the turn-by-turn navigation), Google Earth has a lot of features that make it more powerful for digging in. Earth offers additional 3D content, makes it easier to stack layers of information, allows you to use special controllers such as the SpaceNavigator and the LEAP Motion, has an excellent flight simulator feature, allows you to view historical aerial imagery, and gives you additional tools such as the ruler and elevation profiles.

What is your favorite feature that you can only find in Google Earth?

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. My LEAST favorite difference is that maps dropped the wikipedia layer .. since they did that i use maps a LOT less .. as i want to be able to wiki what i am seeing !.
    It is (still) available in google earth but very limited compared to how it was in maps.
    Such a shame.

  2. Favourite feature has to be the rich data of the GE layers, plus right now to follow the route of the Tour de France via a KML or any other custom path.

    For Google, however, the difference is that Maps make the money in comparison with GE as currently set up.

  3. Gary Unger says

    Although not entirely a direct answer to the question, you leave an opening for me to gripe about the new Google Maps. Every update becomes more commercial oriented (yep, we all have to make money), but at the expense of features they used to have, notably the ability to access custom My Maps on your mobile device. This was an insanely great feature, allowing you to create your own custom path on your PC and have it instantly available on your mobile device. Can’t figure that one out.

    What do I like? The vector maps of Maps. Smaller size, continualy zooming as opposed to loading a new tile, and flawless rotation. What don’t I like?… Why in the heck can’t you search for a restaurant while you have directions on screen. Google Earth…make a custom MyMap, export to Google Earth, search for restaurants along your route, DELETE that search without your route going away, and search again, say for gas, or anything else.

    As a committed shunpiker, custom MyMaps were a godsend. Do what you can to bring them back!!

  4. I can’t see a way of overlaying my marine charts on Google Maps using .KML files like I can in Earth. Long live Earth!

  5. eeeeeeeeeeeeyore says

    Google Earth does not work on Chromebook. Fail.

  6. I think Google Map is better than Google Earth because street view in Google Map is the best.

  7. google map doesn’t have rivers marked with street view. small ones. with 1:50000 map. better to update

  8. I’d like Streetview to have a compass icon. Impossible to orientate when moving in from Googlemaps

  9. Although this article states both Google earth and map products use the same imagery that is not the case. When we look at our home on Google Earth it is missing a sunroom we added one year ago, but it appears on Google maps.

  10. Michael Capadano says

    We added an in ground swimming pool two years ago and it appears on Google Maps, but not on Google Earth. I also noticed a few other things that were built in our town that are still not shown on Google Earth

  11. I use Google Earth extensively for scientific and educational purposes. Google Maps simply cannot do what I need: measurements, comparison between different dates, overlaying field photos, visibility analysis, horizon views, light and atmosphere simlulation. I don’t use 3D buildings almost at all, although Street View has become handy.
    I just hope the abandoning the Google Earth Plugin is not a sign for the future of Google Earth desktop.
    What I need from Google Earth is a way to georeference my field photos, not the simple stretch-and-rotate mode it currently has.

  12. I have an area in Midland Texas that is still showing 10-3-2014 imagery even though Google Maps has a 1rst qtr 2015 imagery.(don’t know exact date but several well locations are visible that have been drilled in 2015) What is up with this ? I have the 3-26-2015 imagery in the counties to the east and west just not for Midland. Any ideas why or how to resolve.
    Stay safe.

    • Timothy Whitehead says

      Turn on the 3D buildings layer to see the same imagery as Google Maps.

      • There already is a 3D building layer for most major cities. I turn it on when I’m using the built in flight simulator. If you don’t see any 3D buildings it may be that they’re not available in your area. Large metro areas like New York, London and Moscow show 3D buildings.

  13. My interest in Google Maps and Google Earth is to encourage older computer users to use modern tools to locate things like homes, historic buildings, and cemeteries in the places they knew growing up. So far, it seems, getting most people to use map coordinates as reference starting points; or keeping exact coordinates for future use is a tough sell.

    Both Google Maps and Google Earth are tremendously valuable tools.

  14. Please anyone out there, can you help me to understand where and when I might legitimately use Google Earth adaptive photos in a book I am writing? I’d be happy to abide by all copyright laws, but so far Google in Mountain View, California has not responded to my correspondence. There are perhaps 30 Google images that I am eager to incorporate into my chronicle stories, but I’m stuck with the uncertainties.

    Thanks for any help you might privide.

  15. am amateur geo scientist,i make extensive use of google earth and map.when are we having clear and updated satellite image of and streetview of nigeria,it seems google are not considering to do anything about it

  16. William Cass says

    Biggest headache is they each give different GPS coordinates. In the case of my own home, way different, which accounts for why I and my neighbours have problems getting deliveries from online stores. Whichever is best, they should each at least correspond. Also, some place names are placed somewhat eccentrically in both as I’ve noticed in looking up the village near my Portugal home.

  17. Grady Dunham says

    Is there any way to get Google Earth to show the direction of travel up on a mobile device after hitting the re-center button?


  18. Does Maps and Earth use the same photos for the same area?

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.