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Sad Lack of Visible Progress on Google Earth for Chrome and Mobile One Year Later

mer 18-04-2018

A year ago, Google held a fancy venue in a New York museum to announce the next grand release of Google Earth. A complete re-write of the underlying application which finally unified the Google Maps (more current) mapping data with a formerly independent (and aging not-updated) dataset used by Google Earth on the desktop for years. The good news is that the application ran surprisingly well in Chrome and on Android (as mentioned in my review). The bad news, for a lot of veteran fans of Google Earth on the desktop, was that most of the tools most valued (measuring tools, content creation tools, GPS support, and much more), and a great deal of support for Google Earth content, was missing in the first release of the new platform. The focus for the first release was to get basic browsing, and to support the new “Voyager” exploration tools to allow more web-like dynamic content to overlay the geographic content to tell “stories”. I was assured by Google that a lot of effort was going in to incorporate missing power features for the fans of Google Earth. In the meantime, Google assured us they would continue to support the desktop version, and they have indeed (as mentioned here).

For a while after the event, I attempted to calm down the reactions from long-time fans. But, in Google’s attempt to highlight their “accomplishments” with the first release, they downplayed the value of the more powerful and useful version for the desktop on their home page with a single link (still true today) that said “Older version” (they changed that finally to say “Earth Pro for Desktop”). I suggested to them they should give it more prominence, but that didn’t really happen. And, the reality is that after waiting about 5 years for new Google Earth capabilities, the new version was a disappointment to its fans. Eventually, my frustration grew to a point that this blog was essentially stopped after 12 years of almost daily posts. After the wonderful way Google Earth grew in the first 8 years or so after it was launched, and the fantastic support Google gave to its huge growing fan base, it was disheartening to watch how this next phase in development started. I’ve been waiting for a sign that things would get better.

Unfortunately, there has been little sign of improvement to the Google Earth for Chrome/Mobile version as an application. Although, I’m sure they did a lot of behind-the-scenes work tweaking performance and fixing issues as people started using it. The biggest positive visible change I’ve noted was the addition of the new photos layer for the new Earth platform. But, there have been no additions of useful basic geographic tools as promised (rulers, GPS support, etc.). There were also a number of promoted content releases using Earth for Chrome like the Live Bear Cam, stories about the Amazon, and the expected release of the Apple IOS version of the new Earth app in August 2017.

The new photos layer is a sad comparison to the former Panoramio layer which had a vast curated collection of georeferenced photos globally. I used the Panoramio layer extensively to help research places we traveled around the world. But, early this year, the much-loved Panoramio layer in the desktop version of Google Earth Pro was mothballed in favor of this new layer. The old icons of the Panoramio photos can still be seen, but you can’t see the photos. And, it’s clear comparing the new photo icons that there were far more useful Panoramio photos (many locations have photos that the new layer does not). Rumor has it Google was going to incorporate many of the Panoramio photos in the new layer. But, now months later nothing visible has changed there.

Who knows, maybe Google is working hard on new exciting features for the new Chrome/Mobile platform? But, I’m not hearing about it on the ground or in rumors. And, yes, I’ve asked. I still regularly use the desktop version of Google Earth Pro. And, I do like using the web version if for no other reason than the fact it has more accurate map data to overlay on it, and because I’m impressed it runs so well in a browser. Maybe Google has continued to work on a strategy to port to other browsers. Maybe they have made a ton of progress on new features, but they just aren’t far enough along to release any of them.

I have this sense that the release of the new version has only depressed the former popularity of Google Earth only further. This despite Google search trends show it stagnating at most. In part, because nearly all the developers of the formerly more powerful desktop version have left since the development tools are no longer functioning, or have no promise of future support. And, also, because so many long-time fans have also gone missing. Or maybe because my blog is no longer active.

On the bright side, a different team at Google has done amazing work with Google Earth VR. Here is the official Google Earth VR website. It’s the most amazing new version of Google Earth I’ve seen in years. But, it’s use is sadly limited to a very small segment of people who have invested in VR for the desktop PCs (mostly Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but also a growing list of other headsets will be capable of supporting it). And, a growing number of venues (museums and VR arcades) offer Google Earth VR. Good news is that VR headset prices have come down a lot in the last year, and desktop PCs that support the platform are more common.

Finally, good news is that Google has continued to support the addition of more and better content to view in Google Earth (more Street View, more 3D Cities, etc.). It’s still the largest, most amazing view of the Earth you can get – outside of going places in person. I hold on to a few rays of hope.

The post Sad Lack of Visible Progress on Google Earth for Chrome and Mobile One Year Later appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth Pro 7.3.1 Released

mar 23-01-2018

Last night Google released a new version of the desktop version of Google Earth Pro version 7.3.1 (which is free despite the confusing “Pro” name). You can download this at the download page found here:

This new version 7.3.1 represents some significant work by Google to add “bug fixes, performance and feature improvements, and security upgrades.” – as seen in the announcement post in the Google Earth help forum here.

I am showing the full release notes below, but I want  to explain some things about this version to those of you who might be confused about the different versions of Google Earth out there:

There are two distinct versions of Google Earth currently: Google Earth Pro (for desktop OSes: Windows 7+, Mac OS 10.8+, and Linux) and Google Earth  for Chrome and Mobile (web-based and Android/IOS). The web/mobile version is a new partial re-write of the original Google Earth software, but is much more limited in many ways – in particular because you can’t create content with it for placing on the Earth (read review of its release last April). The desktop version, Google Earth Pro, on the other hand has all the features for creating content derived from the last 13+ years of development on Google Earth, and provides you with a wealth of built-in layers and content, as well as many ways to view content (as documented on this blog since 2005). Eventually, Google says they plan to incorporate more features in the web/mobile version. But, until then, they plan to continue to support the more powerful desktop version of Google Earth Pro. [UPDATE: I should have said “three distinct versions“, because there is also Google Earth VR. But, only a small segment of population have access to high-end VR devices which can run it (Rift, Vive, and the new Windows VR devices).]

Since the web/mobile version is a long way from replacing the desktop version, it is important to thank Google for continuing to support Google Earth Pro. This new version 7.3.1 incorporates a wide range of bug fixes, security and performance enhancements, and even some new features (a condensed list is in the release notes below) for all operating systems supported. The actual fixes are too numerous (and for most too boring) to list, but Google has been listening to feedback on the help forum and fixing those which have the greatest impact. My favorite change happens to be the fix which supports higher refresh displays which run faster than 120Hz. Also, of particular note is support for Windows 64-bit version.

Release notes:

What’s New In Google Earth Pro 7.3.1 Here are a few highlights of the many fixes, changes and improvements we’ve made for this release of Google Earth Pro.


  • Windows 64-bit: 64-bit application
  • Windows: support for SSL client authentication with secure servers
  • Windows: stability improvements in DirectX mode
  • Linux: added support for printing, embedded video and sounds
  • Performance improvements with large KML files
  • Improved support for secure connections and handling of certificate errors
  • Polygons spanning the antimeridian no longer sometimes disappear
  • CSV import tool user interface fixes and better Unicode support
  • Repair Tool improvements
  • Elevation Profile tool measurements are now more consistent
  • Better translations throughout the user interface
  • GPS device live mode functionality restored
  • Fixed incompatibility with high-refresh-rate displays

Known Issues

  • Windows: upgrading from 32 to 64-bit application resets cache
  • “Tables” tool user interface, stability problems

The post Google Earth Pro 7.3.1 Released appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones