Google unveiled a redesigned version of Google Earth today which, unlike its predecessor, is a web application. While that sounds good on first glance, as you may run Google Earth now without having to install software or an application first, the new version is limited to Google Chrome currently on the desktop.
The desktop version of Google Earth is still offered on the official site though, so that non-Chrome users may download and use the application in its older form.
Google notes that the new Google Earth works in Chrome on the desktop only. While that means support on Chromebook devices, and also better support on Linux, it also means that the new version of Google Earth is not available for users who run non-Chrome desktop browsers.
Changing the user agent does not help right now to get the new Google Earth to work in other browsers.
The company published a new application for Android which replicates the functionality of the new Google Earth.
Google Earth for Chrome
The new version of Google Earth does not replicate all the functionality of the desktop version yet. The interface and functionality has close resemblance to Google Maps, but you will notice that a lot of features and tools are missing from the implementation.
You may use the mouse and mouse wheel to rotate the globe, zoom in or out, and use the various controls offered on the web page.
The start page lists a handful of options on the left:
- Search — jump directly to a location. Simply type the name of a location, get a list of suggestions, and click on any to jump directly to the location on Google Earth.
- Voyager — features “interesting places and locations” on Earth.
- I’m feeling lucky — takes you to a random location on Earth.
- My Places — an option to add places, KLM or KMZ files. You may need to enable KML importing in the settings.
- Share — Share the current location on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or as a direct link for other services and messaging formats.
The new Google Earth is a work in progress, and it shows. You may get error messages when you use certain features on the site. I could not get the Voyager feature to run at all after the initial screen that is displayed when you click on the icon.
Google Earth would always throw a 404. That’s an error, error message stating that balloon.html was not found on the server.
You may run into other issues. KML support is not fully implemented yet for instance. Google acknowledges that most “creation tools” are missing that users of classic Google Earth have at their disposal.
Features that Google mentions specifically are:
- Measuring distances.
- Historical imagery.
- Time animations.
- GPS tracking.
- Flight simulator.
- Tour guides.
While Google plans to implement many of the missing features in the future, it is unclear whether some features will not make the cut.
The new Google Earth is not a replacement yet for the classic desktop application. It is fine for some basic searching, browsing, and looking around though. The experience that the new Google Earth web application offers is quite good, at least from a usability point of view.
It is easy to use, and the performance is good as well.
Major downside, apart from the features that it does not support, is that it is Chrome exclusive currently. This, like many other things, will probably change in the future.
For now though, you can only use the new Google Earth if you use Chrome or Android.
Now You: What’s your take on the new Google Earth?