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Google Earth Pro is now free (google-latlong.blogspot.com)
216 points by Transisto on Jan 31, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

Years ago before I started at my current job some people had Google Earth (free) on their PCs. But then someone read an updated Terms of Use and determined that we actually needed to be using the paid version of Google Earth so many people had their copies removed from their PCs. Then around the time I started someone read an updated Terms of Use and it was determined that there was no problem using the regular version of Google Earth. So it became part of the standard build. Then about a year ago someone read another updated Terms of Use and determined that we were out of compliance and so we removed all copies of Google Earth from all computers. And then we purchased licenses for Google Earth Pro for only those users who really relied on it. For a yearly per-user fee. And now apparently we can install it for everyone once again. For free.

I wonder if Google realized that a lot of companies and government organizations were confused about licensing or ignorantly non-compliant or just gave up and tried some other program. I know in my department we already installed alternative software for most people. Although nothing is as nice or easy for exploring or creating KML files as Google Earth in my experience.

> (...) tried some other program. I know in my department we already installed alternative software for most people.

I've never heard of Google Earth alternatives. Any recommendations?

For a while before there was a free GE, Nasa World Winds had a pretty active community around it.

It would need lots of work to become a real alternative though.


Depending on the use case, Falcon View is an alternative.


We're using ArcGIS Explorer (free)which has tons of issues itself but fills the need for a lot of people, or a full version of ArcGIS ($$$).

nope. it is mostly because microsoft been offering those high quality aerial images for a long time on bing maps for free, but since nobody even know there is a bing map, it wasn't a threat. now somehow google feel they are gaining market and decided to counter attack.

Yeah, too bad Bing Maps search is a bad joke. Really

You have to specify if it's a Address or a Place (if your initial search doesn't work, which is pretty much always)

Where I live (Stockholm) Google Maps has become completely useless at finding anything.

It used to be the case that you could search for the name of a store chain (e.g. Systembolaget - the state alcohol stores) and it would show some of their stores on a map around you, nowadays it picks some random one (never close to where you are) and displays that instead.

The same thing has started happening for lots of places that it used to find before, that are now seemingly just gone. In the meantime Apple Maps has been consistently improving and is now my go-to maps application on the phone.

Exactly the same thing happens to me here in the midwest United States. If I search, for example, for "fast food", especially on my phone, it tends to shift the entire map to some random city, state, or town (and sometimes country). It seems to have a particular affinity for the state of Alabama and also the western coast of Nigeria.

> If I search, for example, for "fast food", especially on my phone, it tends to shift the entire map to some random city, state, or town

I thought I was the only one. I've found Nokia's HERE Maps to be better overall than Google Maps when I just want to find a place to eat or shop or visit. For navigation, they are about equal in my experience, i.e. if you absolutely know your destination address, Google Maps is as good as, or better than, Nokia's maps at getting you there.

The western coast of Nigeria is where the equator and the prime meridian meet.

> The western coast of Nigeria is where the equator and the prime meridian meet.

In case some of those terms are undefined: A spot just off the coast of Nigeria is where the 0 degree longitude (Prime Meridian) and the 0 degree latitude (Equator) lines meet. If Google Maps goes there, something zeroed out its latitude and longitude variables, something you'd think they'd test for every so often.

Similar anecdote here. I live in the south east of England, just outside London. If I search for 'pizza restaurant' it shows me somewhere in the Phillipines. Searching for 'pharmacy' shows somewhere in LA.

Unfortunately I have to agree with both of you, even though my experience in finding the places is not that bad on GMaps

But the "new GMaps quirks" are awful

The best I've seen out of New Maps was when they put Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street.

... in Queens. http://random.fennecfoxen.org/screenshots/gct.png

Yes, it's so bad in so many places I actually started a side project / startup to provide that functionality :) .

We got to a proof-of-concept stage but it's currently on hold (the other two cofounders quit/don't have time for it either), but I think it's certainly a need that isn't being serviced by Google.

My project is called EncontraloCerca, it's supposed to be for Uruguay and Argentina first, but when we get to Stockholm I'll let you know :) .

It seems even Google has found Lantmäteriets (state owned mapping company) fees to be too high. All building outlines they used to get from them are gone also.

Hemnet recently created an OSM layer just to get building outlines again.

Searching for Systembolaget in Stockholm still works for me:


Uhm google images allow you to see way closer.....

Guess it depends on where you live/what you are looking at.

Having just gone through a recent home buying exercise in mid-west I always reverted to bing maps for a "birds eye view" as they had 4 directions of shots from their plane camera while google just had satellite then went into some kind of rendered/extruded view which was kinda eh.

Now if I compare that to our office in SF then google better than bing for zooming in.

Maybe in NY, but for the majority of the UK Bing provides way better imagery.[1]

[1] http://i.imgur.com/2Oasyw0.jpg

you mean image search?

Linux support is pretty ambiguous. The download link says "Download Google Earth Pro for PC or Mac," the minimum specifications link gives specifications for Linux, the actual download gives you a binary called GoogleEarthLinux.bin, but when installed gives you an outdated (3 years) and non-pro copy of google earth.

Which, if I recall correctly, is wine based too. What a mess.

Good, but it's still missing the one key feature that I really need: offline satellite imagery. I guide off-road driving adventures in the western deserts for groups of friends every year. Trip planning is done primary in Google Maps and USGS topos but I occasionally find myself out in the desert and needing to scout a route for a last-minute change but with no way of doing it without Internet and satellite imagery. Yes, it's possible to (legally) cache small amounts of imagery with the stock app but I really want the ability to cache larger areas at high detail. I would pay for this feature, up two a few hundred dollars.

There's a whole ecosystem of software for building tile databases and viewing them on phones/tablets:


There's also a bunch of "WMS Viewers" that you can point at National Map endpoints (which shouldn't have any licensing issues):


I've never had a use for them so I don't know if one works well and has nice caching features.

Mobac works great, although you have to do a bit of editing of configuration files to get it to work with non-free sources like google maps.

I've used it create maps for long bicycle trips in SE Europe. A highest-detail map of the balkans is about 1GB. I used Galileo Offline Maps to render it on an iPhone.

Interesting but it looks like the one iOS client for Mobac is geared towards vector maps, not the satellite imagery.

I use Gaia GPS for my backcountry hikes which is available for iOS/Android. You can download a variety of topo maps and aerial photos ahead of time in a particular area and load them when out of cell service.




The only issue I'm still trying to figure out when using my phone is how to disable the cell antenna with the GPS antenna still activated to conserve battery.

There is also Backcountry Navigator which has similar features but is only available for Android devices: http://backcountrynavigator.com/

As far as I know, mobac is only for raster. The app mentioned in a sibling comment supports the tile maps:


I guess it would at least be fine for visualization.

I use MotionX GPS and download data from MotionX Terrain maps (which are OpenCycleMaps), good for getting around where I live. You might check coverage on http://www.opencyclemap.org/

> still missing the one key feature that I really need: offline

In general, Google has disdain for the very concept of "offline", so I suspect this feature never happens.

This page has some info on the differences between the regular edition and Pro. https://www.google.com/work/mapsearth/products/earthpro.html

I notice the link "grab a free key" leads to a URL ending with free_trial.html, and that page is a form that asks for plenty of information. The lack of any justification for why something that used to be $399 is now free also feels a bit odd to me... like it's somehow implying that giving Google your name, company, phone number, and other information is, to them, worth more than $399?

no. what if you were making a product free that you no longer wanted to support?

remember: paying users expect support

a. make free without knowing who is using your project

b. make free with knowing who is using your project


Can we get proper Linux support, please?

The current Linux situation with Google Earth is a joke -- 3 years old, crashes, based on wine, no pro features.

Fortunately, the Windows version of Pro works perfectly in wine.

Great to know, thanks. Was there anything fancy needed to get it running or did it just run?

Nothing fancy. Wine 1.7, glsl, gdi & fbo.

I tried to download the Windows version to run it under wine and it gave me the Linux bin. I will have to put a bit more effort into it and give it now that someone has confirmed that it works :) Thanks.

Yeah, it won't give you windows version unless you change user-agent. Here's list of all possible downloads:


Thanks! I figured changing the UA would do the trick, but that link is even better :)

It works beautifully.

I wasn't able to get the movie export working though

This sounds really awesome, but does anyone have an explanation as to why they are doing it? Building something like Google Earth Pro must take many millions of dollars, so why would a company release it for free?

Google Earth cost on the order of 10s of millions of dollars to write, with a couple of the key companies, keyhole and Where2, being acquired for approx. $40mm. [1] . Google Earth Pro is a small, but very useful addition to the base Google Earth - I know a lot of network designers who get by just fine with Google Earth, and have never availed themselves of Google Earth Pro.

The real cost, of course, is maintaining and serving all that data. I expect that Google, in offering Google Earth Pro for free, ensures that no other competition can slide into this space, and, I also expect the incremental revenue associated with the Google Earth Pro licenses probably wasn't worth the cost of not owning that market 100%.

This is going to make life for a lot of the other GIS vendors even more miserable than it already is - I can see MapInfo being annoyed by this decision. Just spitballing, but perhaps Google is looking at acquiring them (or a competitor?)

[1] http://www.quora.com/How-much-did-Google-acquire-Keyhole-(Go...

Google Earth has never been a serious competitor for GIS. If they had added more features 5 years ago it may have gained traction.

It is great for viewing and creating small datasets. Viewing larger datasets required a surprising amount of effort in terms of tiling and converting. The tools built into Google Earth were never very good and people were pointed at server products. This was completely at odds with the simple ethos of Google Earth and often lead companies to invest in expensive ESRI products that offered Google Earth support!

Google are concentrating on server products with web interfaces and GE never fit into that. It is fantastic for professional users but Google have no idea how to sell to those kind of people.

I am aware of at least approx $500mm company that extensively uses Google Earth/Google Earth Pro for its modeling, analysis, and data presentation needs. In terms of data set sizes, typical sizes range up to approx 3mm-5mm data points per project. The engineers that use GoogleEarthPro also have experience with MapInfo, but frequently chose to use Google Earth, simply because it's easier.

I'm not suggesting that Google Earth will ever replace MapInfo/ArcGIS - but don't underestimate how much of the "lower end" GIS market that GoogleEarth took away from them.

Which is sad because ESRI desperately needs some competition. It always feels about 10 years out of date.

People feel less bad when a large corporation drops all support for a 'free' product than they do for a $400 one?

If you don't pay for something you can't expect support or updates.

So could be that Google is simply moving that team onto more strategically useful projects. Personally I can't see why they kept supporting this as it isn't core business.

Perhaps they had few enough customers that the effort of maintaining the "Pro" version wasn't worth it?

Perhaps they're starting to see a handful of people relying on other data sources, so they want to give people an incentive to stick with Google?

Anybody knows a good alternative to this that runs without trouble on Ubuntu and Arch 64 bit Linux machines? Nothing in AUR and I do not feel like hunting for PPA right now.

Meanwhile it would be great if Google could provide a repository with a linux version that runs flawlessly.


How worried should I be that Google will discontinue Google Earth? It hasn't been updated in a long time, Google prefers web apps, and now this. I prefer native apps, and Google maps can't do everything Earth can do.

The picture in the page, btw, is of downtown Portland, OR. That's the Willamette river. A fun place to look at in Google Earth.

Registration is failing for me at the moment.

I registered, but got the following when I tried to download:


Access to this site is currently restricted

Waited a bit, got the email, tried again - Everything worked! I've wanted GooglePro forever - and now I have it - to the point of almost ponying up the $400 of my hard earned money for it.

A really nice post-christmas present from Google.


> Error! Your sign up can not be completed due to We're sorry. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later..

Love that error message (I'm getting it as well).

"can not be completed due to We're sorry."

I might start using that as a reason.

Registration failed for me with a message suggesting such remedies as trying a different email address. Punched in a gmail address and it worked. Perhaps coincidentally.

Same with me. It failed with that error when I tried with my fastmail email address. Switched to a gmail one and then it worked.

I entered my primary gmail address and got the error. Then I entered my secondary gmail address and it worked.

glad i just paid the $400 like a month ago.

Request a refund, or see if you can dispute the charge with your credit card if they offer any type of price-protection.

yes, but when will it stop crashing?

Indeed, I got a pure virtual function call within 3 minutes of zooming around.

are google dev working on PC machines? what's up with Retina support?

Beware -- this feels like an email fishing expedition. Sadly, I fell for it and got to the same screen everyone else gets too; poorly worded error with no key.

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