The week in Google Earth news

Last week on Google Earth Blog we…

You can read more over at

KML is now an international standard

As reported by the Google LatLong Blog, KML has now officially become an OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) standard.

According to Google, there are tens of millions of KML documents available online, hosted on over 100,000 unique domain names.  The number of files isn’t a huge surprise, but 100,000 unique domains seem like a ton!

As part of this, Google has transferred ownership of the standard to the OGC.  To quote Google:

This transfer of ownership is a strong reflection of Google’s commitment to open standards. Fundamentally, our interest is not to control information, but rather to encourage its spread.

Microsoft started adding support for KML last October, so getting KML accepted as a standard is another step toward making it the ubiquitous mapping standard on the web.

Tons of new features in Virtual Earth

To go with the new ClearFlow traffic, Microsoft has just released a slew of new features for Virtual Earth.  They include:

  • Export collections to GPS using KML, GPX and GeoRSS.
  • Improved 3D cities.  Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix are now in “version 2″, which includes higher-res textures, more buildings and even rendered tress.  Other cities will be added/updated as time goes on.
  • Better 3D modeling using 3DVIA.  Microsoft’s answer to SketchUp, 3DVIA, has seen a handful of improvements.
  • Labels for Birds Eye imagery.
  • MapCruncher Integration.  MapCruncher allows you to do overlays in a similar manner to Google Earth.  It’s more complex than needed for simple overlays, but it’s very powerful for large or uneven overlays.  With this release you can add your MapCrunched layers to your Collections, then share them.
  • Capture hi-def movies of your tours, up to 1920×1080.
  • Improved KML display.

For more, check out the full post on the Virtual Earth / Live Maps blog, or read Frank’s write-up on the Google Earth Blog.

Some good new KML tutorials from Google

The Google Earth Blog points us to a few new tutorials about using KML.

The first is all about time animations, including the London Eye and Frank Taylor’s Blue Marble.

The second deals with using KML in the Google Mashup Editor.

The full story in the Google Earth Blog goes into more detail explaining each of those KML articles.

Google Maps with KML NetworkLink support!

Maps KMLI’ve been waiting for this.  You can now supply a KML to Google Maps that contains a network link based on a view boundbox and it will work similar to how it does in Google Earth – with no editing needed!

They supply the examples of Panaramio, Placeopedia, Wikimapia and some others.  I’ve whipped up some for Google Earth Hacks — our GEboards (view-only) network link, our full list of files (focused on the center of your view), our newest submitted files and our most popular files.  Here’s another one I did that shows 100 golf courses nearest your center of view (United States only), courtesy of GolfNation.

These are amazingly easy to create, because they all use the exact name NetworkLink that is used in Google Earth.  Very slick!

KML support in Virtual Earth coming soon?

According to a post on geothought, Microsoft’s Virtual Earth will be supporting KML in September or October of this year.

The implications of this are huge, but it appears there isn’t a solid source on it yet.  The author (Peter Batty) heard it in a “vendor spotlight” presentation at the GeoWeb conference in Vancouver, but no other reporting on this has emerged yet.

If you’ve seen anything else to support this claim, please leave a comment and let us know.

Microsoft and KML support

Whether or not Microsoft’s Virtual Earth will ever support the KML format is becoming an interesting topic.  Logic would seem to point to “yes”, but that’s not necessarily the case.

This topic was brought up at the “birds of a feather” meeting at Where 2.0 last week (discussed here).   I liken their response to if we had asked them “do you plan to contract gonorrhea from sex with a prostitute any time soon?”.  Honestly, that’s my comparison.   Let me explain.

When the subject of KML support was brought up, the speaker from MS was in disbelief.  He said something to the effect of “no, not in our plans”, but had the look of shock that we would ask such an outrageous question – he almost seemed offended that such a topic would be raised at all.  Of course they won’t support KML.  Of course they won’t get gonorrhea from a prostitute.  I have to imagine that if the prostitute question had been asked instead of the KML question, their reply would be almost exactly the same.

That being said, I’ve heard from other sources that KML is likely in their plans.  It makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons, but I could see it going either way.  It’s far too hard to share cool places in Virtual Earth, so using KML or some proprietary format to make sharing places easier would be a good move.

The state of Google Maps

It’s been quite a week for Google Maps.  Where 2.0 and the Google Developer Day last week brought a flurry of new announcements.   I’ll run through them all for you:

Driving directions for the API

You can now use driving directions on your API maps.  Not only can you do full directions, but you can capture each step and output it any way that you want, or you can include waypoints in there.  It’s quite powerful.

Google Mapplets

As Google puts it, it allows you to create a “mashup of mashups”.  Right now it’s kind of tucked away on their site, but you can find it here.  I liken it very much to the layers feature of Google Earth.  You can take seemingly unrelated content and layer it on top of one another to create a more useful map.  At the Developer Day they showed examples of real estate info, mixed with schools, mixed with crime data, mixed with local transit.  Having the other data available made the real estate info more useful.

As this feature gains popularity it will also become much more useful.

Street View

You’ve undoubtedly heard about this already.   Google just released “Street Views” for Google Maps.  It’s quite slick, allowing you to see tons of street-level imagery, but it’s so far only available in five cities (San Francisco, New York City, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami).  Mike Pegg at Google Maps Mania has a nice write-up about it.

AdSense Integration

Google announced this at Developer Day, but it’s still about a month away.  With just a couple extra lines of JavaScript, Maps mash-ups will be able to contain AdSense placemarks.  They’ll show up on the map automatically (such as the location of nearby hotels) and the developer will get paid if a user clicks through for more info — just like a normal AdSense ad.  The integration looks quite slick, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works once it’s released.

KML support

Google has been ramping up their support for KML files in maps, and that’ll be increasing a few weeks.  Right now, the maps will blow up if you give it more than a few hundred placemarks in a KML.  However, within “a couple weeks” you’ll be able to load massive numbers of files and Google will deal with it.  They’ll show the “most relevant” items when zoomed out, then include more and more as users zoom in.  It’s similar to how most mash-ups work now, but it’ll make the development of those mash-ups much easier, assuming the relevancy is worked out well.

There’s much to be excited about with Google Maps.  If I missed anything, please let me know.