Where next Google Earth?

A couple of weeks ago Frank wrote about changes in Google’s Google Maps and Google Earth organization. Since then, we have also noted that Google is working with Esri, to assist Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine customers to transition to Esri products. So what does all this mean? Google is generally close-lipped about its future plans, so we can only speculate based on its recent public actions.

It would appear that Google may be considering getting out of the high end Geographic Information System (GIS) business. Google Earth Enterprise is a product that allows customers to have their own Google Earth servers and host their own imagery and layers etc on their own servers. It appears from the Esri website that Google is encouraging its customers to move to other software products. Google Earth Pro, an intermediate product in the GIS space was also recently made available for free. In the 2D Maps space, Google recently deprecated Google Maps Engine which amongst other uses, can be thought of as Google’s enterprise level Maps product.

The latest version of Google Earth on Android, uses a completely new graphics model. It also appears to share the street database with Google Maps. In addition, Google Earth for Android does not show the old type of user created 3D models. It only displays the newer automatically generated 3D mesh. Because of the new graphics model, and presumably new street data model, it is likely that the supporting servers have changed as well. This means the Android version is incompatible with the older Google Earth servers, which explains why the Android version no longer includes the option to log into a Google Earth Enterprise servers.

We are hoping that Google will release a new version of Google Earth for the desktop similar to the Android version but with beefed up features. But if this happens it would likely be incompatible with Google Earth Enterprise databases. This would leave Google with the choice of upgrading Google Earth Enterprise too, or keeping the products separate. It appears from recent moves that Google may decide to drop Google Earth Enterprise, although Google usually have a fairly long deprecation policy so they won’t just leave Enterprise customers in the lurch.

Google shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to gathering satellite imagery and releasing 3D imagery with nearly 100 additions to the 3D imagery already in 2015. So Google clearly still sees a future for an earth in 3D.

3D Imagery 2015
A map of locations that have received 3D imagery so far this year. To find them in Google Earth, use our KML file

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.



Comments

  1. Thanks for the update but I remain confused on a few points. I’ve used Earth on a Windows pc for many years and have accumulated a database of several hundred placemarks for business and personal use.

    Do I need to plan that Google at some point may delete all my’points of interest’? I’m mostly interested in being able to access POI’s in an offline environment.

  2. Tony McEvoy says:

    We are a large Google Earth Enterprise client in Australia who use GEE as you describe – hosting our own GE servers to publish our own globes (~40) with our own imagery, terrain and vector layers.

    There appears to be no public announcement of GEE deprecation (that I have seen). However Google advised us that *our* GEE support will continue until 30/07/2015 after which time “there will be no further GEE extensions”. We had heard through our Google partner/reseller that this was in the wind and we endeavoured over a few months to get the definitive answer of 30/07/2015 but that was phrased as specific to our organisation. Perhaps all GEE clients have been told the same.

  3. “Google shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to gathering satellite imagery”

    Except they haven’t added any new imagery since December 17, 2014. They’ve added Streetview imagery . Not sure about 3D (since I don’t use it).

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      They have added a lot of new imagery, they just haven’t been updating their map. We mentioned a few locations in this post:
      https://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2015/01/costa-concordia-now-visible-genoa-italy.html
      but we have had reports of other locations since then.

    • True, the Google Maps Gallery map of imagery updates is ‘stuck’ at 17 December, but several posts and many comments on GEB have demonstrated how erratic and unreliable this source is, and it is otherwise a laborious task to track down updates. However, one example is that new 2D imagery accompanied the very recent release of 3D imagery for Portsmouth UK, although older imagery is the default if ‘realistic 2D buildings’ is not enabled. So there is new stuff, but judging the full extent of change is now well nigh impossible.

  4. Ekram Mahbub says:

    oh

  5. I leave the same comment as I did on Google+. I guess we saw this coming and a sad day when the decision occurs but they are likely going to close shop on Google Earth. There have been many breadcrumbs to this in the last two years towards Google’s strategy towards the Geospatial Industry and their perspective of standalone clients that goes against their cloud mindset. My biggest issue with products Google deams as failures is most of them never had the right people working marketing and product awareness if ever the question was “Did they make enough money off licenses to make the support worth it?”

    Google Earth has been an awesome product that had made a difference across the community. ESRI knows GIS but they are also a monopoly in the industry where their products are expensive and hard to use without training. Google Earth brought a simplistic interface breaking the mold of what ESRI stands for. It may not be used popularly among the general public but its availability has shed new curiosity in exploring the earth. Even after over a decade with minor UI changes its still amazing how much it has taken root and continued to make an impact within the GIS industry. Credit shouldn’t be attributed to the program itself but also to the KML file format which is so versatile in uses merging the concept of a static shareable GIS file with a dynamic capabilities to do so much more.

    If Google Earth is to fade away ESRI is not the one to fill that hole as Google Earth filled a gap in which ESRI could never satisfy even with competing products such as ArcExplorer. At the very least I hope they give another company a chance to take it on as Trimble did with Sketchup. Perhaps we may actually see some better support and innovative updates.

    • I agree with what you say about ESRI, but what exactly will the ‘popular’ user of Earth – very many judging by the number downloading the app – miss when Earth “fades away”? Presumably you are not suggesting that the content and functionality common to Earth and Maps will disappear, so is it a matter of the loss of things like the widely used third party KML files and more specialised GIS stuff?

      I ask because some recent comments on GEB seem too down beat.

    • Adam… I could not have said it any better.

  6. If you’re looking for a non-ESRI, open standards-based replacement, CubeWerx has also developed an impressive framework that will act as a Google Earth Enterprise replacement, especially for very large volumes of imagery. We have what we believe to be the most efficient and cost effective imagery service on the market. And it’s all built around open standards.
    Our GEE blog post: http://www.cubewerx.com/cubewerx-openimagemap-google-earth-enterprise-replacement-imagery/
    And product page: http://www.cubewerx.com/solutions/openimagemap/

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