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Google Earth Redesigned (google.com)
389 points by coolmitch on April 18, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 280 comments

"Google Chrome required" - sure, because current crop of web developers are too young to remember dark age of Internet Explorer domination.

Yeah, I noticed the contradiction:

"Explore the far reaches of the world, right in your browser. "

But my browser is FireFox.

Simple fix: "Explore the far reaches of the world, right in our browser. "

I know I know stupidity beats malice .. but when I first saw that same message I thought: nice marketing stunt, well played Google

What's even more annoying about this is it requires specifically Google Chrome, I'm on Chromium on Linux, where you'd think it works, but it doesn't. It doesn't even fail nicely.

I was wondering what the hell was going on.

What web technology does this use, specifically, that prevents firefox usage? Or is it just a chrome plugin they decided not to port?

["other browsers in the near future"](https://blog.google/products/earth/welcome-home-new-google-e...), so maybe there isn't one?

I think the issues is that it uses NaCl - I assume they compiled the existing Earth engine to run on the web.

Most likely web-based Earth was launching just too early to switch from NaCl to WASM, which just shipped, and they'll port to NaCl soon.

Hasn't NaCl been abandoned? On top of the annoying browser incompatibility, this is also a pretty embarrassing case of Google's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

This is a rewrite, not a recompilation.

I remember when inbox launched it could be only used under chrome/chromium. Then somebody changed their user agent in firefox to chrome and magically it started working just fine. So you might want to try that.

Looks like the first hurdle is that it's relying on the deprecated document.registerElement API from an early draft of the Web Components specs, which prevents the app from booting in Firefox.

Edit: Paul Kinlan reports that Earth is using PNaCl (https://twitter.com/Paul_Kinlan/status/854351477506277378), which means it fundamentally can't run outside of Blink.

> Paul Kinlan reports that Earth is using PNaCl (https://twitter.com/Paul_Kinlan/status/854351477506277378), which means it fundamentally can't run outside of Blink.

Reminds me of the good old days of ActiveX!

Just curious on why they would use PNaCl over WASM here? Wasn't WASM on track to becoming standard for native-speeds in the browser?

Timelines. WASM just shipped. I'm sure Earth has been working on this for years.

Probably because PNaCl is available now and was available two years ago when they say they started.

Earth uses Polymer, which works cross-platform using polyfills, so that's not what's making it Chrome-only. It's NaCl.

Either the polyfills aren't being shipped or their feature detection is broken, because I get "document.registerElement is not a function" in Firefox Nightly with a spoofed UA string, and I get marginally further if I turn on our experimental native support for Web Components: http://imgur.com/a/TgnrQ

The polyfills aren't being shipped, since Earth is using NaCl which is already Chrome-only.

Polymer's polyfills don't work very well, for what it's worth. Sometimes they get confused if things don't load from the network in the order they expect and start eating up gigabytes of RAM and all your CPU...

Can somebody fix Google's code? It's just Javascript, right?

It's just Javascript, but served from Google servers. For a fix to work for other users you'd need them to use a plugin that applies it.

At some point, it's using an API to get the map data. Is there anything that prevents non-Google hosted code from using that API?

Yes, rate-limits.

PNaCl is a binary executable format.

Is Google actually using that? That's IA-32 only. It won't run on ARM. What are they running on Chromebooks?

> Is Google actually using that? That's IA-32 only. It won't run on ARM.

Incorrect, PNaCl runs on both ARM and Intel.

NaCl (without the P) had to be separately compiled for different platforms, PNaCl is portable.

I believe Inbox had major performance issues in non-Chrome browsers at launch, which was something they fixed in the weeks following its initial release. Once those were fixed, it was opened up to other browsers.

The Firefox bug was trivial to fix, but nobody at Google bothered to report it. If they had, it would have been a non-issue by the time that Inbox was released.

> "Google Chrome required" - sure, because current crop of web developers are too young to remember dark age of Internet Explorer domination.

This is the same with the new YouTube TV too. I'm not sure if it's a DRM issue or not. Especially galling if so given the controversy over HTML5 DRM content, after other browsers have decided to support it, to then roll your own solution anyway...

DRM in web browsers is anything but standard.

Edge uses PlayReady, Chrome uses Widevine, Safari uses FairPlay, etc.

As a content producer, you have to get licenses to use each of those technologies and run servers for them separately. It's anything but standard.

> This is the same with the new YouTube TV too. I'm not sure if it's a DRM issue or not.

Firefox supports the same Google Widevine DRM as Chrome, so YouTube's choice of DRM system should not be an issue.

It is unacceptable.

Erm, this product isn't done by some random web developer but google themselves... so yeah, they made another essentially proprietary website.

it honestly sucks but your phrasing puts the blame on inexperienced developers, which most certainly doesn't apply here.

You underestimate how many levels of engineering at Google are entirely populated by recent college grads. It could absolutely be unwillingness (I agree it's probably not blind ignorance) to pay attention to the lessons of the past.

> current crop of web developers are too young to remember dark age of Internet Explorer domination.

How does that happen? I'm not even 30 and I remember when IE6 was new. Does everyone burn out or move into management by 26 or what?

Programming is really a weird field in that it seems to lose a lot of its workmen just as they start maturing into the experience level that yields a productive stride in other fields.

I know some make the argument that programming is a young man's game due to the required mental acuity, but I don't really buy that. Perhaps as people get older, they become increasingly less interested in staring into the computer and seek more social forms of employment?

We've got to be losing a huge amount of productivity by seeing experienced developers drop off the map before they hit 40.

How long before we see the same notification on Google Search and Gmail?

Google already serves a degraded Google Search UI (the "heirloom" interface) to Firefox on Android. You have to spoof your UA string to get the modern UI: http://imgur.com/a/cIH7T

I respect the European to keep American tech giants on their feet.

Google is really the new evil Microsoft.

It is building it's walled gardens and enabling in monopolistic activities.

Apart from Gmail and Google I don't touch anything that Google makes in the fear that it will be half baked and will be cut the year after.

Presumably never, since that would make a serious cut into their advertising revenue, and provide quite an opening for competitors in both spaces to snap up disgruntled users.

But is it required for some open technology?

Chrome is a voluntary install, open source and keeps pushing web tech forward. 1 site using advanced features that aren't supported elsewhere is not a big deal and not comparable to IE's history.

Looks like the Google Earth Flight Simulator[0] didn't make the cut. Many features are missing from the original desktop app and it's not immediately clear what this offers over using "Earth" within Google Maps. The "auto-rotate around the landmark" feature is also a pain for people who are used to maps being north-facing by default.

[0] https://googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk/2007/08/google-earth-eas...

It seems this is the Google way. They kill one product (especially a desktop product) and it takes years till the new one is on every feature on the same level as the old one... look at Picasa vs. Google Photos. Even today Picasa can do many more things that Google Photos cannot do today. I'm sure the native/old Google Earth has a ton of stuff which is not ported to the web version.

Good they cannot convert Chrome itself as a web app :D

I find it interesting that they recently introduced location sharing to Google Maps as a new feature... which it had back in 2009, until they got rid of it.

They had tons of handy features in Google Maps before it was redesigned using Material Design. We used the route elevation data often to plan hiking trips with our parents to determine if they would be able to make a trek. The map scale was absent from the first couple releases and when they reintroduced it, it would only appear on zoom and then vanish. It took 3 or 4 more releases for them to finally add an option buried in the settings to make it always on.

I'd like to say they did this to present a clean minimalist app but the recent incarnations of it are more cluttered than the pre Material Design version. Sure you can tap on the map to minimize the clutter and then tap again to make it go away completely but tapping also drops a pin if you hold it for a sixteenth of a second longer. And I hope your touchscreen isn't super sensitive because it'll detect that flutter as a double tap and then you're just zooming.

If you'd like to plan trips that have elevation data, I highly recommend komoot.com. It uses OpenStreetMap, and is a great tool for planning hiking or cycling trips.

I'll check it out, thanks. We were using Maps in a more adhoc manner when touring Scotland. It was great, now not so much.

For any serious trip abroad I use OSMand (but only on Android) ... you can use hiking routes (GPX), all offline (great if you have no phone signal). Also helped me more than once for parking or finding the next public toilet (haha). You can even using for skiing, biking or navigation on the water.

And regarding elevation it seems it is also there inside: https://github.com/osmandapp/Osmand/issues/1795

OSMand has the worst UX I have ever experienced. Hands down.

Personally I use Gaia GPS and Pocket Earth for hiking/nature.

When was the last time you used it? 2 years ago I would agree.

The ability to show photo hotspots on the map and look at the photos was really handy for planning trips to unfamiliar places (or even familiar ones, really), but AFAI can tell it's gone now. Seems it was part of some service they bought, integrated, then killed.

I believe you can get the photos by using the street view person. (That is, drag the street view person over the map and the photos show up as pins)

It was part of Google+ until very recently. So my guess is, that they just moved it.

Last part of your comment reminds me of the birth & death of javascript [0]

[0] https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/the-birth-and-death...

It makes some amount of sense because there's less to maintain and more cultural knowledge of the new codebase. Instead of saying "We're removing features from Picasa because nobody here knows how they work and everyone's scared to change things", they can say "We have a shiny new project here that will eventually be better than Picasa". It's a nice PR stunt.

I can tell you for a fact though that at least some of the senior Engineers who developed Picasa are still at Google.

None of which are on the photos team or have the time to rewrite it for the newer stacks.

That is true.

> Good they cannot convert Chrome itself as a web app :D


Could they presumably write it as a non-native app? Would there be any issues with that? Presumably the "chrome" around a webpage isn't particularly intensive?

Can't do cross-origin requests. It would need to be an electron-style app.

also I noticed that at least in Switzerland, the imagery is significantly older than the one of the "Earth" layer in google maps. If I had to guess, I would say the images on Google Earth are from 2011, whereas the ones in Google Maps seem very current: last summer.

edit: Actually, the "earth" layer of Google Maps is identical to Google Earth. What's more up-to-date is the "satellite" layer which I only see offered in the mobile apps.

There was a point where you could choose from which time to view the data. Very useful feature. Might even still be in there somewhere if you find the right chicken to sacrifice to make it appear.

Google sure spends an incredible amount of money making their UIs worse (and usually increasing memory use by a large multiplier at the same time).

>Google sure spends an incredible amount of money making their UIs worse (and usually increasing memory use by a large multiplier at the same time).

Isn't everyone doing this these days? All the UIs on PC software have been getting worse since the mid-2000s.

> The "auto-rotate around the landmark" feature

I think of this as "Drone View". I keep waiting for the JDAM impact.

I never see anyone talking about google's elevation data for buildings and the process they've used to drape imagery over that elevation data. I wonder why that is? Maybe this isn't a hard problem and it's just a question of getting high quality data. Still, I've never seen any other company come close to this.

I do wonder what exactly is new here in terms of a casual user browsing the landscape. Google maps 3D offers, more or less, the same experience. And that's been around for a while.

Still, it's hard to be negative about this. The result is quite clearly better than every other comparable technology I've seen.

Apple Maps does the same thing and was doing it before Google. Interestingly, Apple seems to have better imagery, at least where I am; trees are sharper and more realistic, the ground imagery is more detailed and the colors truer to life. In the forests, trees are rendered clearly enough that I can recognize the landmarks, which just isn't possible in Google's rendering. The only downside is that Google's colors are prettier than Apple's, at the expense of accuracy.

Bing (via the Maps app) is also doing this type of thing, but with a less robust set of data.

Google's implementation appears to be based on oblique (angle, taken from plane) imagery similar to Bing's "Bird's Eye View" feature; if you open up old Google Earth you can see oblique shots from various angles that match the exaggerated coloring of the final 3D maps.

Seriously though, check out Apple Maps. I didn't think I'd be recommending it, as I nerd out about Google Earth a lot, but it's actually got great imagery & models.

I never thought to look but you're totally right. The quality of the 3D renderings is way better than Google's.

I can easily get absorbed browsing 3D cities with Apple Maps on a large-screened iPad. The touch interface plus the beautiful imagery makes it a really great experience overall.

Can I check out Apple Maps in a browser? I'd like to take a look, but I don't have easy access to ios or macos.

The screenshots do look fantastic.

(Not a criticism of Apple if this isn't possible)

It's possible, although Apple doesn't advertise it or make it real easy to get to. Sharing locations using Apple apps can present a web page, with an embedded map that works fine in a browser:


There have been a couple small indie projects which basically load Apple maps in an iFrame, but I think they've been mostly C&Ded.

I only see the vectorial map in that link. Is there a way to see satellite, or even better, 3D?

Not vector; those are jpg tiles.

I couldn't find a word for non-satellite map :)

Apple must have deals with some vendors of very detailed 3D imagery for specific areas – in the Virgin Islands e.g. you can zoom in to see that individual vehicles and boats are bump-mapped and draped.

Apple bought C3 Technologies, a Swedish 3D mapping company back in 2011. It was originally spun out of SAAB (the mapping solution was originally used for missile targeting systems, iirc.)

more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3apAXzf3JTg

And Saab kept the same technology in a different company that they now own together with Digital Globe: http://www.vricon.com

The technique is called photogrammetry. It takes photos from multiple angles and does image analysis to determine where solid objects and surfaces are in 3D. Then it projects that same imagery onto the generated 3D models. Google, Microsoft, and Apple all do this extremely well now, but I agree. It's absolutely amazing.

You can wander around in this rendered copy of Earth, today, in VR. And folks are so above it that they still say "eh, no killer app tho" without irony.

It's possible to query the Maps API for some 3D Lidar data - I use it here: http://callumprentice.github.io/apps/street_cloud/index.html - but this seems different from the other 3D data that is a mesh and has things like trees and building outlines.

Pure speculation, but I wonder whether they're doing something clever with their image data to generate the elevation data?

Id guess the details of the process are tricky, but it's possible then you only need to concentrate on getting high quality images vs. getting high quality images and high quality elevation data at the same time.

If any Googlers are reading this: What does the new Earth require that Firefox is missing? I'm happy to help file things in Bugzilla so that this Chrome App can grow into a standards-based Web app.


Bad news

> Mozilla's Christopher Blizzard criticized NaCl, claiming that native code cannot evolve in the same way that the source code-driven web can. He also compared NaCl to Microsoft's ActiveX technology, plagued with DLL Hell.

I suspect a future version will use WASM

I don't understand why. They have a WebGL version in Google Maps that look almost identical. The data is the same between the two. Did they recompile the old desktop client to NaCl for no good reason? They didn't even keep any features, the only thing they kept seem to be the rendering. The new client isn't even close to the old desktop version that hasn't seen an update in years, and probably never will either.

Well, this is great. It's just like Google Earth, but slower and without all the neat features like historical imagery that made Google Earth awesome. Seriously, it doesn't even seem to support historical street view, which was the only big Maps feature that was missing from Earth.

For anybody who wants to see what this is a pale imitation of, Google Earth Pro for desktop is still downloadable and still free (and still full of weird unfixed bugs because they've been working on this "replacement" instead)


I'm really impressed by the amount of detail in the 3D views (hold middle mouse button to look around).

Even the fair at the field near my house [0] can be viewed in 3D!. Coincidentally they are currently building that same fair today, so for a moment I thought the images were live...

[0] https://earth.google.com/web/@52.08511654,4.31805086,0.37952...

Same place on google maps, that works on every browser that supports WebGL: https://www.google.pt/maps/@52.0849891,4.3169948,78a,35y,77....

How are they building the 3D views? Mapping cars driving around with sensors? I was under the impression that the shapes were inferred from satellite images, but the moment I step outside the major cities, it's back to flat maps. Even the couple hand-modelled buildings previously present in maps seem to be missing here.

It is possible to use satellite imagery for photogrammetry [1], but Google is using imagery from airplanes, possibly combining it with ground level data from their street view cars.

[1] http://www.vricon.com/

It's done by plane, though I'm not sure what sensors. More than just photography.

SLAM techniques allow reconstruction of a scene from video+position data. As the aircraft takes video of the terrain, it is logging its position. Large-scale batch processing can recover the 3D positions for each image feature that will minimize some error metric.

Rural areas probably have lower-quality image data (or noisier aircraft position data).

This is exactly what I want to know. There's several towns in the UK that have all the houses in really good 3D (mostly the coastal towns) - I struggle to believe that there's a team of humans making these...

There's a (yuuuge) public Lidar dataset for the UK:


One of the motivations for the collection was flood analysis, which overlaps with your observation about coastal towns.

I'm not sure that's it's only LIDAR data. There are e.g. some cranes and scaffolding that also are 3D modeled. I assume it's some magical machine learning pipeline that accumulates the aerial and street view imagery, LIDAR where available, and generates a 3D model.

Google Earth’s Incredible 3D Imagery, Explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suo_aUTUpps

Maybe I'm just in an area where buildings are a tad more complicated than simple boxes, but around here the results vary between acceptable and catastrophic. As if buildings were haphazardly thrown together in all kinds of weird angles and shapes. I know there are limits to what technology can do, but overall I liked the combination of flat texturing and hand-modelled buildings better.

They also seem to have lots of trouble with pieces floating in the air, which imho could just be pruned (e.g. lots of floating train tracks here, presumably where there also has been a train at the point of geometry capture: https://earth.google.com/web/@48.51659545,9.06299404,316.491...)

The detail is great but the coverage seems limited. There's no 3D in Moscow, Kiev, Beijing or Singapore as far as I can tell, for example.

How can you look around on a Mac trackpad?

Hold shift/ctrl then click+drag.

Off-topic from the update, but sometime in the past 2 years the quality of their universal photogrammetry became jaw-dropping.

Yes, I was blown away when I first noticed this. And I was thinking how much this data, which is free for everybody, would be worth in case of a war...

It's not really free.

It's free in the sense, that you can browse around, but if you wanted to do some analysis on it, you would need access to the raw bulk data, and this is very expensive.

There is free aerial imagery data available (e.g. ESA's Sentinel-2), but it has lower resolution (10m/Pixel). If you want to do the 3D building thing, I estimate you need data with something like 1m/Pixel and from different perspectives. This data volume is rather big (Exabyte-scale) and it is non-trivial to host and access it, so currently only the big players have it.

San Francisco definitely has resolutions better than 1m/pixel it feels like (for buildings downtown) At least, you can clearly identify segments that would be < 1m across.

Yeah, there is high-resolution data available, but it is scattered around small-scale web portals mostly built by the government in this local area, and aggregating and polishing this data is a non-trivial huge effort (they come in different scales, projections and quality).

Furthermore most data is orthographic only, so you can built a nice 2D map out of it, but to do 3D I estimate you need images from specified angles (e.g. 4 views per place), and I think this data is still behind closed doors and quite expensive.

Absolutely! I recently tried the Google Earth VR on Vive where the photogrammetry really comes into play, and I was awed just like back when I was a kid and hooked up my computer the first time to a color CRT.

Except getting motion sick 5 minutes later.

Doesn't do anything on my ubuntu / chromium system.

same here ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    cb=gapi.loaded_0:121 GET https://clients6.google.com/oauth2/v3/userinfo?key=[redacted] 401 ()
    cb=gapi.loaded_0:45 Uncaught [object Object](anonymous function) @ cb=gapi.loaded_0:45
    clients5.google.com/log?authuser=0:1 POST  https://clients5.google.com/log?authuser=0 401 ()
    POST https://clients5.google.com/log?authuser=0 401 ()


Why the hard requirement on Google Chrome?

Because it uses PNaCl

AKA Google ActiveX.

This was a bad idea when Microsoft did it and it's still a horrible idea now.

It's ActiveX, but completely secure and open source. Sounds like a good idea.

Regardless, it's pretty much already been killed. Too bad it's taken 8 years for a web standard (WebAssembly) to match it.

> completely secure

Yeah, there has never been a case of software breaking out of a sandbox or VM.

Fact is it allows running native x86 code downloaded from the internet, it's orders of magnitude more dangerous than e.g. Javascript running inside a sandboxed runtime.

Why do you think that? There's been way more bugs in V8 over the years than the NaCl core sandbox.

I'm not sure why you're trying to say ? Two wrongs make a right ?

For the record: I think that JS is a horrible idea too. What happened to the old rule of thumb that once you let someone else run their own code on your machine you should consider it compromised ?

> What happened to the old rule of thumb

People realized it's a stupid and impractical rule and ignored it.

>> People realized it's a stupid and impractical rule and ignored it.

If by "people" you mean developers, and by "stupid and impractical" you mean inconvenient.

Given that your rule of thumb is one that only developers would know or care about, yes...exactly.

Developers realized that their rule was stupid and impractical (not just inconvenient, but actively impractical: async interaction is faster and requires js), and so ignored it.

People stopped following that rule sometime around the time the computer was invented.

Depending on your requirements, it can be really easy to sandbox code. I could write a simple virtual machine in an hour or two that's more secure than your typical jpeg decoder. So it's really worth looking at exactly what kind of sandboxing and complexity is involved.

And now we have browsers with both sets of bugs instead of only one. Lucky us.

Bad idea for whom? Developers, users, shareholders?

Users. It's a security nightmare.

users. it's terribly hard to secure.

Was wondering why it seemed so much faster. Looks like they're serving gzipped dds (gpu compressed textures) for the tiles as well. Would be interesting to see a WebAssembly version of this.

Maybe they made it so it can run on ChromeOS also ?

It's not so different than downloading a Windows application that requires JVM or some .NET distributable, or a Linux package with additional dependencies, IMHO.

I respectfully disagree. [P]NaCl is bad for the web just like ActiveX was.

They have a Google Earth desktop client if you want a desktop application. As this is sitting on the open web it should use open standards.

I also disagree.

There is nothing even sorta objectionable about Google software on Google servers requesting you use a Google browser to access them because it uses Google-developed browser features that aren't even part of web standards, and wouldn't be for years even if that was the goal.

The alternative would be a moral stance that "no non-RFC stuff on port 80", and that makes zero sense to me. What, they're not allowed to innovate unless they run through the bureaucracy first?

I'd love it if you clarified what you're asking for here, because as stated, it seems alien to me.

What I want is for a web site to use standard web technologies so I can use it with my browser of choice.

I have no issue with Google putting things over the wire via HTTP but if it only works with a specific client it isn't, to me, a web site but an internet-based application akin to Microsoft ActiveX-based sites which were awful for the web.

The whole point of the web is that it was developed as an open platform and we had to fight with Microsoft to stop them turning it into an Internet Explorer only platform. I don't want the same thing to happen with Google/Chrome.

I want an open web where I don't have to use one particular browser for certain services.

I should also say I do think Google do a lot of good though. They do work with the web standards committee and they do a pretty good job of making their innovations open so I am not quite as worried as I was about Microsoft but, to me, it is better to stop it before it happens than fight to get it back.

In which case you're in luck - Native Client is completely open, both the source code and the executable format[1]. However, it's new and hasn't been submitted to the standardization bodies yet.

With that in mind, I have a real hard time getting worked up over Google putting a draft feature they're working on in their own browser. I suppose if Mozilla and Microsoft really want to implement a moving target, there's nothing stopping them from doing so.

If Chrome doesn't restrict it, then they start getting negative press about how this new thing they created doesn't work.

[1]: https://developer.chrome.com/native-client/faq

They where knocking a large building down near the office recently, this has that building in a partial state of demolition and has modeled the girders that where exposed.

I admit to looking at it slightly slack-jawed, that wasn't so much future shock as the future punching me square in the face.


Universally useful link (ctrl+click to rotate): https://www.google.de/maps/place/53%C2%B044'43.4%22N+0%C2%B0...

This has been around for years.

It's interesting that the cars on the motorway to the south of the building are pancaked (not 3D) whereas the cars in the parking lot next door are 3D. It makes sense, since I guess they need objects to be in multiple frames from a flyover to project them into 3D. It must be a bitch to deal with moving objects and figure out which position to put them in, since the rest of the imagery is generated from multiple frames.

Great example. Whatever they're doing in terms of photogrammetry and geometry reconstruction is really impressive. I wonder how much of it is manual effort (if any)

I love the way they play well with web standards: http://imgur.com/a/c9cNT


When I visit this on iOS, I get a message that says "Google Earth for iOS is coming soon." Of course, there's already a Google Earth app for iOS. When I launch the Google Earth app on iOS, I get a message that says (roughly) "The developer has to update this application to work with future versions of iOS". This is weird since it was last updated in May 2016, though that appears to be a very minor update.

In other words, the old iOS app is effectively abandoned and the new one isn't available.

"Google Chrome is required to run the new Google Earth."

thanks for nothing.

still an annoying aspect of Google Earth -

I can see a long range of mountains from my 2nd floor windows. I want to drop down to approximately the same position and elevation (from my 2nd floor window) and take in the same view on Google Earth. The intent is to identify mountain peaks that I can not determine in real life.

Google earth limits the angle one can tilt while the POV is close to the ground.

Sounds like you want the viewshed functionality in Google Earth Pro [1]. The desktop client is basically abandonware at this point, but thankfully, and generously, Google has made the Pro version free [2], and it's still available.

[1] https://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2015/02/google-eart...

[2] https://www.google.com/earth/explore/products/desktop.html

Have you tried this site?


Edit: It generates panoramas with mountains and hills labelled .

thanks for the link...

Yes this is precisely the perspective I want to view on Google Map, with the added benefit of being able to double click on a distant peak and fly right to it, or perhaps also a feature to return to previous position so one can easily toggle between points of interests

The panoramas generated do have links to the relevant locations in Google Maps - though no "flying" :-)

Try to get to experience Earth VR in the Vive. It's a fantastic thing. Very useful to get a better grasp of mountain ranges. It's my goto app to show non gamers people that want to try VR.

There are some pretty good apps that will tell you the mountains that your phone is pointing at. PeakFinder, for example.

You can ctrl + drag/pan to look around your current point in space.

fly / zoom to approximately 2nd story level of a typical single family house. Then pan up. You'll find that you can not pan high enough to view the horizon line.

I can when I hold down ctrl, not when I hold down shift. I'm on a mac though, on windows it might be something else than ctrl. https://www.dropbox.com/s/s4u1n51wmrw795o/Screenshot%202017-...

I don't​ know why Google Earth exists. The satellite mode in maps is very good, doesn't depend on PNaCl, and is part of Google Maps, where it makes sense.

Javascript has big performance limits which don't allow Maps to do everything that Earth does. The 3D engine in Earth does a whole lot of magic to get the visual quality that it has. In Javascript, you have to trade off everything to minimize your function call overhead into WebGL and try to pre-generate as much static content as possible. Earth has a much quicker access path to GL, which allows it to render more and higher quality visuals.

Satellite mode without terrain can look fine in JS/WebGL. Once you start tilting the view and seeing terrain and buildings, the JS performance will be horrible pretty fast, and adaptive LOD streaming is hard due to the function call overhead.

I worked on the Google Earth desktop app for a few years, so this isn't idle speculation.

This new NaCL version seems to be nowhere near feature parity with the old desktop client, sadly. I hope it catches up, since I loved the historical imagery, for instance. The good news is that the desktop app still works if you want to see that.

Thanks for the reply. I played with this new version and with Maps's Earth mode for a bit today, and to me they feel identical 3d-eise (except that the new thing only works in chrome, and I like Maps's UI better).

There is no satellite view anymore, it's called "Earth". Not to be confused with Google Earth. And to disable the crappy 3D you have to go into the menu.

What's funny is that if you disable WebGL then you get a much more usable version of Maps IMO.

I love that 3d experience you call "crappy". To each their own, I suppose.

What is the difference to the 3D view in Google Maps?

edit: (honest question, dear downvoters...)

I would like an answer too - I genuinely don't understand what the difference is.

With Earth you can load KML or KMZ files, and you don't have directions.

Honestly, I think this is (or will soon be)the new "3D view in Google Maps". Seems to be an improved version of that, with a (very) few of the features from the desktop Google Earth added.

Well, it doesn't work for me. After clicking the link I see only some wallpaper and a text 'Google Earth'. I use Chromium 57 with Linux. Any ideas why it doesn't work?

Google maps (Earth + 3D) works without problems. When I open the website with Firefox I get a nice text telling me that google earth is an advertising platform for chrome ;-)

'Aw snap! The new Google Earth isn't supported by your browser yet. Try this link in Chrome instead. If you don't have Chrome installed, download it here.'

As expected doesn't work in edge. Atleast bypassed the disclaimer changing the user string. Things like these make me want to not use their services.

The new Apple HQ building site looks impressive in 3D: https://earth.google.com/web/@37.33478572,-122.00939683,47.8...

They didn't close the circle yet, to let trucks enter the midsection.

What's more interesting to me is the cranes are 3d modeled, that was not expected

Yes, I noticed that too. How is this done? There has to be some machine learning involved, accumulating all the aerial imagery and street view data and somehow generate a 3D model. This can't be all LIDAR data, can it?

I think it's just Stereophotogrammetry (regular pictures from different angles), I doubt LIDAR and ML is used. It's at least not required.


Have you not heard? Machine learning is used for everything today, and if it was not it definitely should been.

Embrace and Extend the web with Chrome only apps like this. Google are basically old Microsoft at this point.

I really liked having a separate application to open for Google Earth instead of a browser. I take it this won't be an option any more?

Fortunately yes, it is.

> Of course, you can still access and download Google Earth 7 for desktop


Chrome allows you to turn any website into it's own app, but saving a website such as Google Earth to your bookmarks then drag that to chrome://apps and right click on it and choose Open Full Screen and create short cut. So it will you will be able to open it like an app and find it in spotlight/alfred and you can still use chrome for websites separately.

An "app". Just a glorified browser page without chrome. You can achieve the same thing with a shortcut.

Somebody will probably create an Electron app that wraps the web app, just like with Google Play Music

Chrome-only and that's if there's no bug. I have the latest version of Chrome on Ubuntu but my GPU (GTX 960m, latest drivers) is blocked and the --ignore-gpu-blacklist flag doesn't work.

Seems to fail for me on Chrome on all my OSX machines. Colleague on windows/chrome it works fine..

> Embrace and Extend the web with Chrome only apps like this.

Depends on the reason for "Chrome only" - if they use (upcoming) standards not supported so far by other browsers I see no harm in it. Other browsers will catch up in time.

It uses Native Client, but seems that at some time development of NaCl had been stopped[1] so it's strange that new Google product still uses this technology. Maybe they'll port it to Webassembly later. Or maybe plans had changed and they're betting on NaCl, Talk plugin and other activexey stuff.

[1] https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=239656...

It indeed doesn't work on Firefox (when switching user agents).

Doesn't seem like it's doing much in Chromium neither, just showing a static page: http://imgur.com/a/Q00OI

Doesn't seem to work in Vivaldi either :(

Nor Opera

To what, if any, extent is Chrome itself collecting user browsing data? That is part of Brave's business model -- there are many things about your behavior only the browser can know. Is Chrome doing the same?

Google has already said other browser support is coming soon.

So I guess your little analogy doesn't work anymore.

>Get the new Google Earth now on the web in Chrome; on Android as it rolls out this week; and on iOS and other browsers in the near future. (Of course, you can still access and download Google Earth 7 for desktop.)

It looks like a very good shinny little toy to convince those who have not Chrome installed yet that Chrome is a good browser.

It surely is, but for me, it seems weird that a huge company like Google will give you these marvelous toys for free and they don't take anything in exchange.

What I mean is that putting people in a g-bubble like this is bad. I also wonder what the shinny 3 dimensional thing can add as a value to a standard map. In term of education for example: people don't even know how to read a map without a GPS and a map app now. I don't say that map apps are bad, but I don't know...

* They didn't know how to read maps before

* They still can't read maps and gps today, they just follow instructions

chrome is free, fast to download, runs on most platforms, and in no way forcing you to use it exclusively. It's not like they're asking you to download an .exe with direct3d drivers. you think they need to support microsofts 30 browsers or shouldn't release at all?

It's not bitching, I just think as a professional I'd be required to launch products with requisite browser support and I don't have the resources of Google. The whole point of Web Standards and the Open Web have been made numerous times and if this was Microsoft requiring Internet Explorer in 2017 I'm sure they'd get pilloried.

I'm not seeing how this is different than an Intranet site requiring Internet Explorer or a video site requiring Flash. Unless you believe that Internet Explorer and Flash are "Bad" and Chrome is "Good"?

not a bad point, but I think web standards and open web apply to most content. if you're pushing the envelope in what a browser can do for a flagship product, that becomes exponentially hard to support.

each time I look at google's 3d representations for things, I really wonder why they don't do manual touchups for certain places

I mean, if you are including the Eiffel Tower in the intro pages, could both make it look cleaner, and make it use less net resources

We need something like OpenStreetMap but with 3D content like this. And allow people to touch up the models.

OSM Buildings[1] and Mapbox's Unity3d SDK[2] is providing some really cool stuff in this area. Google definitely doesn't have the whole market locked up. I think we'll see some really cool mapping stuff this year.

[1] https://osmbuildings.org/

[2] https://www.mapbox.com/blog/mapbox-unity/

I thought that their imaging was all from satellite, but this image seems to show a very-close-to-the-camera windmill which would seem to hint at a drone....? https://earth.google.com/web/@32.65401271,128.717528,189.113...

Nah, it makes more sense if you go to the 2D view of the same spot [1]. There'll always be some parallax perspective offset towards the edges of the satellite image.

[1] https://earth.google.com/web/@32.65383541,128.71781037,186.9...

Google has been one of the largest purchasers and schedulers for aerial photography over the past 5+ years. Traditionally aerial photography uses airplanes as the flight system.

Google Chrome is required. Nope.

I wish Google would lower search engine rankings for sites that require some kind of browser or plugin.

Obviously they don't want to hurt themselves.

Well, their crawler uses Chrome anyway, so it wouldn't notice, I guess.

This is where the aluminium in your Coke can comes from: https://earth.google.com/web/@-32.55733803,116.19955541,310....

Navigating 3D maps in the desktop browsers has always been clunky with UI controls for panning, tilting, zooming, and their unclear mapping with the mouse buttons. They solved it by assigning the left mouse button to set an anchor and middle mouse button to "operate" the camera. Very simple and intuitive - I'm impressed, good job.

Oh man this is amazing! It's fast too. I can only imagine this getting better still with more research in deep learning.

In my opinion it is not that fast on initial loading on a 3Mbit/s line... I had the feeling that native Google Earth was faster (but maybe only because of caching).

Can you please tell me how deep learning is used in this app?

Sorry for any confusion. I don't mean to say deep learning is used in this app (though it might be). What I wanted to say was that with the advent of generative networks, generating 3D models on the fly from a few image data will hopefully keep getting better.

How great would it be if they did the same thing for Google Finance as well? It hasn't been touched in years.

Just like Google A, B, C and then some.

One thing I'm disappointed about... In the desktop version when you click and drag then let go, the camera will keep flying across the landscape without slowing down. Depending how fast you drag, it's possible to slowly and gracefully glide over the landscape in any direction you choose.

This is a cool feature that is no longer possible in this new "improved" Google Earth. The camera now comes to a dead stop.

I really hope they can add an option to bring back the "zero resistance" camera or whatever you call it. Or a flying camera mode or similar.

It means you can sit back and glide over a city slowly, just above the buildings or mountains without needing to interact. If you choose a nice slow speed, the approaching map data loads in time and you have yourself a nice aerial trip over the land.

> Loading in progress. 0 of 4.543 billion years processed.


Same problem here. On the first page visit, it loaded to 3,XXX,XXX,XXX of 4.543 billion years and froze. On refresh, it doesn't load a damn thing.

I am using up-to-date Chrome.

Clearing the cache did nothing.

I checked some of not so famous places and 3D re-construction of environment is really good. I would assume they probably have even higher detailed 3D environment internally. Now if they can only allow to use this for developing self-driving cars algorithms :).

My wife's home town in Belgium looks amazing in 3D at Google Earth.


Unforutnately, all of Sweden is still entirely flat. I wonder why.

I was in Leuven last summer. Absolutely beautiful place.

How is this any better than the desktop version that's already out?

It's not - they just stopped developing the desktop one because now they're all about web-only.

It sucks too because we use the desktop one all the time at work - though we're slowly replacing it with custom Cesium-based stuff.

Do you think they will ever go back to building what people want?

Who's to say they aren't? I bet the web version has an order of magnitude more users than the desktop version.

"Aw snap! The new Google Earth isn't supported by your browser yet. Try this link in Chrome instead. If you don't have Chrome installed, download it here."

The 3d view is faster in google maps than google earth, why do we need google earth? Also I'm already used to use ctrl to rotate the view on google maps.

Bug: the demo only shows beautiful aspect of the Earth, not the polluted industrial areas, trash yards, plastic gyres, ship graveyards, oil spills, et cetera.

They don't even explain why Chrome is mandatory! "Learn more." just sends us to the Chrome page...

A bit disappointed to be honest - this doesn't do much better than Cesium and has a hard requirement on Chrome :(.

Cesium is a clusterfuck of JS though. I also once thought it was cool then I tried to use it professionally and extend it. It's a nightmare. Mapbox and Vizicities are offering some good stuff with real DEM now. Fingers crossed.

Well. Gives you a good idea of how massive Tokyo SkyTree is.


Looks like only few places in the US and some other cities elsewhere have the 3D view (that too not properly finished). Rest of them are still the old 2D. Wasn't most of this already there? I have seen their 3D view before, so besides performance improvement nothing much is new?

Does this browser version of Google Earth also support the 3D mice that 3Dconnexion produces? I prefer using them in Google Earth for flying/zooming/rotating so much over using a regular mouse.

On my 4 core i7 laptop with 8GB of RAM running Ubuntu this juddered and flashed a lot and CPU utilisation went to 100% on all cores... I didn't think my laptop was that bad.

I want to VR around the earth. I was kind of excited and hoping this was that

Google Earth VR is definitely a thing and it is amazing. You can get it on Steam.

The fact that it was designed to be used only with Chrome is troubling. Of course it was the right of Google to decide on whatever platform they wanted.

Anyone knows if there is a parallel "open" version in the works (in WebAssembly or similar)?

There's a desktop client available for Linux, Windows, and Mac.

Lets hope they release an API for it, google maps api still only 2d and google earth api got discontinued years ago

There is no information on the redesign. The only thing I know is they made Chrome a requirement to use it.

I'm glad to see that they've fixed the Oslo bug (half the city couldn't load since 2014).

They don't even explain why Chrome is mandatory!

"Learn more." just sends us to the Chrome page...

Nice, I hope someone makes a GTA 1 clone using the models and data :)

I have Chrome but my computer doesnt support WebGL apparently.

go to chrome://flags and enable overriding the gpu black list also there is an option to force Hardware acceleration.

I tried it and works fine.

Mobile view using F12 dev-tools shows a not-so-well-done design. That's a first for Google but I guess it will be improved even on various devices without having to install/try the apps.

But it's a good first shot, keep going guys!

Just why did they re-use the K8s logo on the landing page?

It is a bit goofy using another products logo but Kubernetes means Helmsman and that product is called Voyager so I see where they were going with using a ships wheel.

this is absolutly awesome. Polymer shines :)

Very impressive, but too bad zooming in a zone isn't smooth: it keeps accelerating and slowing down on my computer, which feels dizziness-inducing.

Hangs my current Chrome on Linux on a Core2Duo E8400 with older Intel onboard GPU - The old Google Earth Linux runs fine :(

This is an engineering marvel.

Got a bit of vertigo there

"Google Chrome is required to run the new Google Earth. Please try this link in Chrome. Learn more. "


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