This is a post I have been reluctant to write. I started this blog 12 years ago to bring news and share enthusiasm about one of the best software applications, and datasets, I have ever seen. Still to this day, I am amazed when I use Google Earth and the incredible wealth of data that Google has shared with everyone for free. I am going to start this post with a short statement and explain what our readers should expect. In a more lengthy background dialogue below, I try to tactfully describe what has lead me to this action. This decision was reached after a few months of consideration.
I have decided, after a dozen years of publishing this blog, it is time for me to stop. As a fan, writer, and publisher, I really care about the Google Earth product, and our readers. But as a person, I need to focus my life on other things. It’s possible, if Google produces something really notable, I will write another post or two about amazing things of Google Earth. But, I will not resume daily posts. I plan to continue running the GEB server because many of the thousands of posts are found useful by Google Earth’s millions of world-wide users.
I will be directing readers to communicate with Google’s online help forums to try and obtain answers to questions. For a while, I will try and address some of the many comments and questions we get on the blog. But, those will stop soon. I will continue to respond to long-time GEB readers and friends by E-mail for a while as well.
I want to give special thanks to Mickey Mellen who took over writing this blog from 2009 when I left to sail around the world, and to Timothy Whitehead who took over in late-2014 when Mickey had to focus on other business. They both worked hard to maintain the Google Earth Blog purpose and style, and I greatly appreciate their efforts. We hope the readers of this blog enjoyed what we produced, and the help we gave in E-mails and comments, as much as we enjoyed doing them.
It’s been an amazing 12 years. I hope Google Earth, or superior successors, will continue for a long time to come.
A lot has changed at Google in the 12 years this blog has been documenting Google Earth’s evolution. Many of those changes were good – the Google Maps and Earth division staff grew significantly, and new features like Panoramio photos, Street View, Google Earth Outreach, Google Mars, Moon, Ocean, and countless other features and layers were added to the product.
But, in recent years, Google Earth development languished. Staff was reduced, and during the last three years all of the top staff who were involved with its original creation have left (John Hanke left Google with Niantic – which created Ingress and Pokemon Go, Brian McClendon left to join Uber, and Michael Jones left to be involved with tech startups and investment groups). I enjoyed greatly working with these guys, and they were very supportive of Google Earth Blog and my efforts to document the enthusiasm of all things Google Earth. They were all peers of mine in the computer graphics and Internet development fields in the decades past. But, there were many concerns when they left.
I tested most versions of Google Earth over the 12 years, and gave many suggestions from both myself, and GEB readers. Google often listened and implemented many of the requests. Fortunately, a little over two years ago an effort to revive development efforts at Google for Google Earth was made, and a next generation version began development with a smaller staff.
Google as a corporation has changed, and, as often happens with publicly traded companies, their priorities with how they manage their products and relations with outside parties has changed. While they still cater to the big online and traditional news sources and pubications, their attention seems to have shifted away from standalone fan sites like GEB. Our blog is not the only fan site that has experienced this. Blogs like Google Maps Mania, for example, changed their focus and became just “Maps Mania” – a multi-product online mapping focused blog instead several years ago.
As Google eliminated most of the software developer hooks into Google Earth, most of the mapping developers have stopped, or greatly reduced, efforts related to Google Earth as a tool. The elimination early this year of support for the Google Earth plugin was the nail in the GE developer coffin – at least for now. The Google Earth Community forums, which once thrived with over a million members, has also dwindled in activity. It was the home of the biggest fans of Google Earth.
The new Chrome-based/and mobile app, version 9 of Google Earth, is the basis of the next generation future from Google. It was released in late April of this year. The new development team, headed by long-time Google Earth developer Sean Askay, has grand plans to implement many of the basic capabilities of the classic pre-version-9 Google Earth applications. As a first release, it shows great promise in terms of graphics performance and its ability to run well in the browser or on a mobile device. But, the web and mobile app version 9 only supports a subset of the Google Earth content, and is missing many of its better features. But, Google has committed to continuing support for the older version while they work on implementing more capabilities in the new generation. They have even recently added some nice tweaks to how the desktop graphics perform on version 7.3 of Google Earth. However, they demoted the better, desktop version, of GE to a link called “older versions” with the release of the first version 9 on the Google Earth official web home page.
In recent months, the new version 9 development team has presumably listened to feedback from GEB and its readers and either implemented, or indicated they will address, some of the requests and suggestions. But, responsiveness and feedback has mostly been slower and more cryptic compared to the past. Much feedback went without reply. In part, I think due to smaller staff, but also I think because Google has changed as a corporation and how it communicates publicly, and even privately, with testers. Their priorities with dealing with the public, and fans of their product, have changed. So much so, that the fun and joy of dealing with Google has disappeared. At least for me.
I realize all too well that many of the people who were die-hard fans of Google Earth 10 years ago, are no longer the fans of the product they once were. Many people have told me they can’t believe I have held on so long. As a long time entrepreneur, former CEO of multiple companies, captain of the seas and air, I am more persistent than most. Believe me, you have no idea. I have tried extremely hard to keep Google supporting Google Earth and its fans over the years.
In a rare occurrence in my life: I give up.
Maybe Google will one day again realize that their fans are important to the longevity of their products.
But, now that I’ve reached this decision, I want to turn my eyes to more optimistic pursuits for myself.
About Frank Taylor
Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.
Jarno Peschier says
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Thank you for the great work you’ve done and the great posts you published for all these years
Ali Shareef says
As a long term fan of this blog, it is a very sad day for me. but every one has their limit. thank you Frank and everyone else who have contributed. I wish you all the best in life.
Very sad indeed. I and others use Google Earth as our main Fire Mapping Platform and 7.3 release was a bomb and we stayed with 7.1. Will miss the posts on this blog as I shared them daily to one of my Facebook Groups. Thank you for all you have done over the years.
Sad news 🙁 Same an GE as webb app 🙁 I wish you all the best.
I’m amazed you actually managed to produce daily content. 🙂 Plenty of blogs can’t or don’t even try. Scaling back that effort is totally understandable.
It isn’t just that “fans” of a product such as GE are an asset to the company, and that there is not only communication and also a degree of trust necessary to keep them – the trust that the tool, the software product called “Google Earth” won’t go away or get altered or have its direction changed. It’s also that, should Google decide to abandon the “old” standalone GE, and get serious about going browser-based only, they would actually be delivering a heavy blow to the multitude of crucial uses and applications it has in the real world, with dire consequences to people, science and culture, throughout the world, from first to third. Because that web-based thing running in a browser is not and will never be a valid substitute, as that is technically impossible. And there is a real danger that the suits in upper management who make the decisions and order the company direction don’t see that or don’t care about it. Maybe from their point of view they’ve created a monster there, but be that as it may, they have the responsibility towards people across the planet to keep it alive. This isn’t just some toy.
Abandoning the “old” GE would be as if they’d decide to shut down the one good search engine in the world and limit its deployment to smart watches and activity trackers because they think that’s “the future”, leaving people lost…
“This isn’t just some toy.”
Exactly. They don’t seem to understand the true value of Google Earth for society anymore. So many people, so much knowledge depends on it. Could it be better? Hell, yeah, I’ve got tons of ideas. Are parts of it outdated technology? Of course, if you don’t work on it, everything becomes outdated. Will a web version be better? No effing way.
Too bad an organization like Wikimedia couldn’t ever possibly have enough money to take over this product, with all the work “behind the curtain” necessary, all that technology.
Of course we don’t expect Google to do all of that for free, but there are so many ways to softly monetize Google Earth which would easily make it a sustainable platform in the future.
Jeff Crisdale says
Unfortunately, IMO this is a broad-based “societal shift” that seems to be the way of things now and for the foreseeable future…
In short, across the world in all forms of media & information sharing, business or government, I see the “old”, more historically stable management teams being replaced ever-more-frequently with “young, hip” exec teams who want to rush head-long into “new tech” without consulting their support bases & seem to have NO grasp on what benefits a sense of “history” or “stability” might mean to their customers, be it private or public.
It is sad to see someone like Frank who was obviously so loyal to the way Google Earth WAS being brought to such a low point by the total ignorance of the “new management” team. Et tu, GE?
I came, I saw, I went too….
A really, really big thanks to you all for this blog. I remember when GE was first announced – I stayed up all night playing with it. As a geologist it has been immensely helpful both in my work and in my personal life. It is sad to see GE go the direction that it is going (Google centric, less innovation, less open source). The combination of Sketchup and GE was the pre-cursor for many AR work and maybe that is all Alphabet wanted….
GE Blog was the place I always first went for updates and info. You will be missed.
Sad to hear, but understandable with the lack of development on/for Google Earth these last couple of years. It is a tremendously important product which enables everyone to get a better understanding of this world, with no real competition.
And yet, as with many of their others products, Google doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do with it and how to bring the real value to it’s users. Google nowadays is just yet another corporate behemoth which concentrates on constantly raising prices for clicks on their ads instead of working on products and services that move the world forward. Also, the former openness has largely vanished, replaced with a closed off corporate culture.
Google Earth was once one such product. It still is important and as much as I hope that they won’t eventually shut it off to be replaced with their very basic web version or switch to completely monetize it, I’ve done a lot of work these last couple of months to replicate as much functionality as possible in my own solutions, independently from Google Earth.
Steve Troman says
So sorry to hear this Frank, I hope you continue to look in on us for the years to come. All the very best.
This is sad do hear, but the reason is understandable. I’ve been following this blog since 08.
Will the map of 3d imagery still be maintained?
Joachim Hört says
It’s a pity, Frank, but not to change. All the best and many thanks from Willi1, Moderator at GLOBEZOOM, the German Google Earth Community.
Keir Clarke says
For 12 years the Google Earth Blog has been an incredible source of inspiration. I can’t thank Frank, Mickey and Timothy enough both for their incredible work on GEB and for the personal support they’ve given me over the years.
I can’t believe that the Google Earth Blog won’t be a part of my daily life any more. 🙁
Richard Stawell says
Thank you Frank, Mickey and Timothy for educating and entertaining your Google Earth fans. It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to the regular news and views from the GEB.
For me the start the demise happened not with the changes to GE but when we met in Rome to be told that the GEC BBS forums were to be moved to the old looking and clunky Google Groups that did not perform the same as BBS and were more difficult to post to for GEC members.
Then when the inevitable exodus of members occurred they shut down the GEC altogether which IMO should have been done in the first place.
Kudos to Steve for setting up the new GEC on ProBoards and trying to keep it alive but not helped by ImageShack and Photobucket charging for third party hosting. Nearly all of my images archived there are gone now due to broken links.
It was great to meet you Frank (I am still annoyed with myself for not being able to catch up during your stay in Melbourne) and I hope to catch up in the future.
BTW: Do we have any moderation for this GEB G+ page as there is some spam creeping unto it?
Well its been a great ride Frank. As one of the early adopters of Earthviewer (I was ‘blt’), and the forums I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to you and your co-authors. When I first was able to fly around the earth I felt like I had transcended my earth bound existence. Remember GEFORCE mode? And this community of enthusiasts became my extended family. I really loved reading the carefully composed posts by Hill and Lrae documenting the treasures which had literally never been seen before.
I’m afraid those born after EV will never understand the wonder of having these wings and eyes for the first time.
Alan Clifford says
Thanks for all your hard work on this excellent blog over the years. I have been a daily visitor for most of those 12 years, and still remember the mini-excitement a new imagery release used to bring! But all good things come to an end.
That said, I don’t necessarily share your pessimism, at least not fully so. Hopefully Google 9 is just a starting point, and being cloud-based it will be a lot easier for Google to release updates more frequently. I am sure it will eventually surpass the desktop version.
Anyway, all the best in your future endeavors.
Thanks so much Frank, Mickey and Timothy for all the amazing work over the past years! I will definitely miss your posts but can totally understand your decision.
All the best!
I have enjoyed the blog for many years, but this is my first time posting. Thank you for your efforts to make the world a better place. I can certainly understand the feeling of disillusion.
Patti Fiette says
What an interesting life you have had, Frank, and the dedication you showed to the blog is a great testament to your love of travel and our earth. Looking forward to seeing your next chapter – good luck!
Thanks for the great content on this website! Hopefully Timothy will be able to keep up with the interesting content!
Price Morse Collins says
Frank, thank you for your continual helpfulness and support of a tech product of global impact.
From your friend (and original owner of the domain name ALPHABET.COM )
CHEERS AND GOODLUCK
Thank you for all your posts! They were (and still are) useful for me and my students! Good luck in your future projects. Happy mapping!
Dieter van Werkum says
Thanks Frank! I’ll never forget the thrill your yearly roundup article gave in the eartly years. These showed exactly what an amazing ride that was! But let’s stay optimistic about the opportunities the web will offer 3D mapping, for an even wider audience.
David Leu says
Truly sorry to see an end to an era, Frank. I and MM have loved the work you have done. We understand the urge to move on as we too are doing so. After 10 years of sailing around the world, many times bumping in to you, Karen and Tahina, this will be a hard break. Best of luck going forward and we hope to stop by and see you folks in NC on of these days. Dave and Mary Margaret Leu
Thanks for the years of work guys!
Now you stop this, but I hope will meet though on nGEC or everywhere else, where users can share their finds, collections, etc. using such a great map tool what GE meant for us!
I have such chronic ‘Google Earthritis’ -as CuriousJM from GEC named this disease- that I cannot stop browsing and posting even in these circumstances.
For now -until Steve and all the other good old fellows will not give up too- my contributions are and will be available on nGEC Forums:
…then we will see!
Best and see ya!
Thanks for all the great posts over the years.
Mike Pegg (@Mpegg) says
Quite a post for me to read and to reflect on the long and successful run this blog has been on.
My best memory of the past 12 years has to be the time you picked me up from my hotel here in the South Bay Area and we headed to the Googleplex together for the first time as chief Google Maps Mania and Google Earth bloggers.. Who would have thought that Eric, at the time the CEO of Google, would announce himself as fans of the Google Earth and Google Maps Mania blogs and invite us for lunch! Sitting in the front row [ https://www.flickr.com/photos/81026713@N00/167052241/ ], listening to opening remarks from the founders and CEO about their vision for Earth/Maps was really mind blowing and it was honestly one of the coolest moments of my life.. Shared with you! We were like kids being invited to the Wonka factory that day..
I’m proud of what you’ve been able to do with the Google Earth Blog – you’ve created an atmosphere for people to share, learn and love this amazing, historically significant product. Big props as well to Mickey for his dedication and passion for the blog.. It’s definitely bittersweet for me to read and to process this.. Left only to wonder — should we have joined forces back then? 🙂 haha
I’ll be looking for both of you out on social, email or hopefully in person somewhere down the road.. Maybe we can catch up on the latest feature Sean and Gopal have added to Earth when we do. 🙂
All the best Frank! You’ve made a huge impact here.. All the best.
(Google) Maps Mania.
Brian Geiger says
Thanks for the great tips over the years!
Greg Angevine says
Very sad to see you go. Thank you for all the content over all the years.
dave lorenzini - x-keyhole says
Thanks Frank, Mickey & Tim for years of dedicated effort to showcase the best of what we set out to do at keyhole…to change the way people look at the world. Your daily defibrillation helped keep the community alive and understand the utility & unique perspective GE provides.
The irony is that as the internal support for GE has dwindled, it’s never been more necessary or relevant, with AR & VR (local & remote) views just now taking center stage.
Having a robust, reality based spatial & visualization framework is -essential- to real-izing the full potential of the next, world side web (WSW) that is being built now, right…before our eyes.
Google’s leadership may have lost their way, supporting “data driven” decisions instead of prescient xR visions, but as they see their textual “blue links” inevitably become “view links” the rea$ons for doubling down on the bbbillions spent on earth will become crystal clear.
When that happens, the extraordinary efforts of the amazing team, past & present, that built this wonder will once again give google a unique advantage over everyone else who can’t stomach the the table stakes required to map the world from scratch, let alone inside & out & in real time.
Regardless, it will take tireless global guides like yourself to lead the way & shine a light on the best this world has to offer. Thanks again for all you’ve done.
Xavier Tassin says
Thanks Frank, Mickey and Tim for your help and the exposure given to GEFS some seven years ago. Well done for the fantastic content and longevity.
GEB will be missed.
Thx for everything. Sad times…
Merci pour tout le travail.
Sad times Frank, Fantastic content and analysis that has lead me to new features and to laugh and get new enjoyment from a great piece of software and what still remains one of the biggest corporate gifts to the world. All the best, and look forward to your infrequent posts!
Paul van Dinther says
Frank, in 2009 as you were preparing for your epic journey around the world journey on Tahina, you and your blog launched me and my ship simulator web-site into the limelight. Thanks to your very helpful hands on support and persistent testing, was I was able to put together a half decent app that has been popular right until the day browsers stopped supporting netscape style plugins.
Working closely with Google on their Google Earth plugin API and even working at Google as an extremely rare foreign contractor has been the pinnacle of my IT career. I have you to thank for that.
Also my thanks to Mickey and Tim of course. Both were always willing to write about my next crazy experiments.
The reading was on the wall for a long time and I managed to safely guide my clients away from Google Earth and onto alternative products such as Google maps and Cesium . Rallynavigator.com is such site that is still growing from strength to strength. Nothing is ever permanent but it is bitter sweet to read today that Gearthblog stops publishing.
Just like your blog Frank, Planetinaction.com also lives on as a work of reference http://www.planetinaction.com/archive
For ship simulator enthusiasts. I am still working on ships2career.com hoping this winter to finally get it completed and out of Beta.
Pity to see you go. Thanks for all the info you shared with us! Greets. Maarten
Gary O. Grimm says
Thanks for your report Frank. I have followed GEB religiously from almost the beginning and have gained a lot of knowledge from it. Many other interesting web applications we have been able to use in the past 20 + years have also changed or disappeared to my disappointment. I look forward to hearing about your new adventures.
Christoph, alias Lucifer666 says
just remembering 2005-2006 with tracking the Tour de France and Volvo Ocean Race in GE
all the good to you.
Christoph, alias Lucifer666
Thank you Frank!
Do you think Google Street View will be the next thing to get axed? I know it’s impossible to predict, but do you see signs of this being the next Google product to be cancelled?
Frank Taylor says
Thanks for all the nice comments about our efforts. It is really gratifying to know so many people have enjoyed our efforts for the past 12 years. We are starting to shut down comments on the posts because we are not spending time reviewing and responding to them. Old comments will still be shown. We recommend you go to the official Google Earth and Maps forums or the Google Earth Community forums which are linked above and below the comment section.