Last week, on Tuesday, August 26, 2014, Google released a 64-bit version of Chrome which does not support 32-bit NPAPI plugins, including the Google Earth plugin. I have tried out the new 64-bit Chrome and can confirm that the plugin does not work. It does let you try to install it, but to no avail. And there are no appropriate error messages, so presumably sites using the Google Earth plugin can expect an increase in support calls.
Google Maps now has ‘Earth Mode’, which allows you to view satellite imagery and tilt the view to see it in 3D. It is based on WebGL, which is the modern way to do things. But it is not yet a replacement for the Google Earth Plugin:
- Its performance is terrible in comparison to the plugin.
- It lacks the ability to display KMLs other than via a complicated route through Google Earth Engine – which requires a licence, except for very small data-sets.
- It does not show 3D models – only the new type of 3D imagery that consists of a single mesh.
- Navigation is difficult, with less sophisticated controls than the plug-in.
It is likely, however, that improvements to the WebGL 3D in maps will be the way forward, although I have not seen any statements from Google as to what their plans for the future are.
Great sites like:
- Google Earth Flight Simulater Online, which we told you about in 2009
- A ship simulator from Planet in Action, which we also reported on in 2009.
- Also from Planet in Action the Apollo 11 Moon Lander game that we told you about in 2009.
- YoubeQ, a 3D social network in Google Earth we first featured in 2011 and they have been continually adding features since then.
- A driving simulator from Frame Synthesis we showed you in 2012.
and many others we have talked about over the years, will be impossible to make without the Google Earth plugin.
Flight Simulator Online
youbeQ, a free multiplayer driving and flight simulator
So if you are still using a browser that works with the plugin, then try them out while you still can! [UPDATE by Frank Taylor: you can install the 64-bit version of Chrome and also still keep the 32-bit version of Chrome installed. So you can keep running the GE-plugin on Chrome. Or, you can run another compatible browser such as Firefox.]