I’ve been a patient man.

So…. you might have heard that I like @GoogleEarth. I’ve been waiting for Google to release an online version of Google Earth for some time that I could have students use to create content without having to load it on their personal computers at home, or bog down the computers that are in the computer lab at school.

I literally just turned on and launched the New Google Earth online about thirty seconds ago and thought I should start this post so I can record my reaction to it. My hands are shaking. I feel like a kid in a candy stare after mom said I could choose anything I wanted. I’m in a world of pure imagination….

There are five things you can/should do with New Google Earth.

  1. Improved Search: It seems that you can type in phrases such as (capital of France) and will be flown to Paris. Seems like a very useful feature in the classroom for students that struggle with specific name recall. I’m down with this already…
  2. Learn about a city/region through “Knowledge Cards”: Major landmarks et al. First impression is that it is like a wikipedia snapshot summary of important things, places, events, et al for a place. I’ll get back to you on this….
  3. Shift and tilt perspective using the Shift key and drag with a trackpad or mouse. One of the most important feature of Google Earth is its ability to check perspective and allow students to see things from 360˚. Context is everything. I’ve talked about this before in other posts.
  4. “Take the Helm with Voyager”…. Hmmm, way to be cryptic Google! My guess is that there are several prepared tours to explore cultures and places from around the world. My options range from Exotic Lakes, Kenya, dramatic mountains, Exploring Paris, Exploring with Jane Goodall (I love mountain gorillas). I’ll have to update this post as I delve into it… or maybe save it for another day. There is just too much here to write about in one sitting.
  5. Feeling Lucky? Why yes, Google, I do feel lucky. Take me awaaaaayyy…..

Whoa… now I’m at Machu Picchu. I’m just going to write some first impressions of what my experience is and then follow up in the comments with some discussion.

The Good

The detail in the rendering of the satellite imagery if phenomenal. I just witnessed some serious photorealistic rendering right there. I’m not a techie with any coding knowledge but I can tell that the smoothness that occurs now when panning around is much better than the platform Google Earth. I can see students taking virtual field trips that actually feel real(ish), especially if teachers have access to VR. 

3D imagery is everywhere (except Machu Picchu, oddly) and it looks great! When I checked out my city in Maine I was surprised to see that even the trees of the downtown ares were rendered accurately. Nice job, Google!

The Bad

Maybe ‘Bad’ is too strong a word. I’m a little disappointed that Google didn’t make the navigation shortcuts on the keyboard the same as the platform version. The ‘click-and-pan’ that they are using now is easy to use but those of us who have built files in Google Earth for a long time will find the transition from one to the other and back again to be difficult… and it doesn’t have the same feel. With some more practice I’m sure it will get easier, I’m probably just being a luddite. Darn new technologies….

I was able to upload and open a KMZ file from my hard drive to New Google Earth after searching for one that was small enough to fit in their size restrictions. It’s a map of European colonization of the Americas from 1492-1650 C.E. and has multiple folders contained in it, each with several dozen placemarks. In order to turn on the placemarks, I had to go into each and every folder and click the little eyeball icon to turn them on. It was tedious (and that is being kind). It doesn’t seem very well thought through and since you can turn on entire folders in the platform version, why didn’t they just maintain that same functionality?

You can’t create paths, polygons, placemarks, folders, et al. in the new Google Earth online. You can do that in Google MyMaps but it doesn’t make sense to switch back and forth between programs. Why couldn’t you just combine them into one platform?Boooooooooo! Plus, creating content is still much easier on the original platform of Google Earth than on Google My Maps.

The Ugly

I hate to say this because I love Google Earth so much but I’m still waiting for Google to have the capability to build large files like I currently do with the platform version. I’m unable to import any of the large files that I’ve built into either Google MyMaps or this new Google Earth Online. It makes using either to showcase work or compliment my lessons, useless. I understand that there is a space limitation to these things but in a perfect world, as an educator, I want my students to have the same ease of access to the content I create. If I can’t create content the way I envision it, or share that content easily with my students so they can also experience it easily, then the product doesn’t have much use to me aside from being a flashy new toy.

I will wait, patiently.

It pains me to say this but aside from the wonderful rendering and smoothness of navigation, the new Google Earth Online still doesn’t hold a candle to the capabilities and functionality that the stand alone platform has for building interesting and useful content. I’m hopeful that Google will add the functionality to create paths, polygons, placemarks, dialog boxes, folders, and layers that the original platform is well known for. I hope that Google is actively pursuing a rollout of these features in the coming months.

Teachers want to use applications that help them create experiences for their students, not just show them flashy, shiny new toys. The New Google Earth is not there…yet.


5 thoughts on “The New Google Earth

  1. As always thank you Pete for enlightening and guide teachers to use Google Earth in all its forms to enhance their students experiences. Love the Good the sort of Bad and the Ugly looking forward to more updates!


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