There are many things in life that cost a good few dollars. There are also a few that remain free of charge, and the Google Earth live  software application is one such freebie. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the best applications currently available anywhere on the internet and depending on how savvy you are will depend on how much you agree with me.

To the uninitiated the live mapping application is probably something that’s neither interesting nor cool. Believe me … it’s extremely interesting and it’s cool to the chromosomes. Since its official launch back in 2005, the quality and depth of its capabilities are nothing short of awesome.

This is no half-baked attempt at Google gaining your attention. This is the search engine giant at its finest, at its most magnanimous even, if for no other reason than the fact that it remains free of charge some five or six years down the line. This despite the popularity of the software, and how much it will have cost to refine and redevelop it as the years have gone by.

Google Earth - What Is It?
Google Earth Gallery 1
History of Google Earth Live
Google Earth Timeline
Download Google Earth Live
Earth Google Download Tutorial
Google Earth Free
Google Earth Street View
Video - Street View

Google Earth - What Is It?

There are some misconceptions as to what Google Earth is, though generally most realize that it’s a highly sophisticated piece of software that’s aimed at delivering a superior end user experience.

It relies on satellite imagery that maps the entire globe, which in turn has been refined and inserted into a highly developed program that allows the user to remotely view the world using 3d technology.

It’s available to anyone that has access to an internet connection and, providing the user has a measure of understanding related to how it works; in no time at all you’re able to view any single point on the face of the Earth. Below is a gallery of images, taken directly off the interface on my desktop, an example of the quality of what you can see and just how far you can virtually 'trek' the Earth.

Its success lies in its ease of use and the variety of layers that allows its users to view the Earth from different perspectives. From the original concept some 6 or 7 years ago, to the current version as of March 2011, there has certainly been some beautiful symmetry between what Google’s vision was and what the users need it to be.

As an application that encourages you to waste time wandering around the world, it’s definitely earned its ‘cool’ stripes. As an application that contains a high-end, user friendly interface that invites you to explore the world (and beyond) at depth, it’s simply awesome.

History of Google Earth Live

As such, there is a history to the Google Earth live software, much of it is in the public domain and easy to find. For those that don’t want to bother hunting for it, but are curious enough to want the background info, I’ll include it here.

The original format for the program was birthed pre 2004, by a company known as Keyhole Inc. They’d already gone into development relating to the mapping software that underpins Google satellite technology, and the original forerunner was aptly name EarthViewer 3D.

The company was bought out by Google back in 2004, and this naturally gave them the right to further develop and package EarthViewer 3D. The following year, 2005, the software was launched under its (now) well known brand name and the rest, as they say, is history.

As the software grew in popularity, a pro version was added. For around 400 bucks, there’s the ability to access further functions that don’t come with the Google Earth free version. Downloading and printing high-res images, mapping addresses and locations and more are available to those that are willing to pay up front for the privilege.

The timeline, evidenced on the picture below, shows the growth and development over the last 10 or so years. You can see that from the point of inception, it’s been altered and adapted as demand and, presumably, technological advances have increased.

no images were found

In real terms, GE isn’t ‘live’; this appears to be a word that’s become attached to the application through misinformation or misunderstanding. The word itself suggests that the images (etc) are running on some kind of real-time feed – which they’re not.

Whilst the imagery is current, and updated to reflect changes in geography, urban development and so on, there’s no on-going synchronicity between the satellites and the software itself.

Much like you find with paper based maps and GPS systems, the data is refreshed from time to time; otherwise what you see (especially with Google Maps) wouldn’t be a true reflection of what actually is on the ground.

Overall, the current version is of course the best so far. Google Earth has indeed remained ahead of the game in terms of what it is and what it can be used for.

Download Google Earth Live

It’s incredibly easy to download Google Earth live, even for those that find computers and related software intimidating. A few clicks of the mouse will have the software installed, up and running on your laptop or pc in no time at all.

As of now there are three different editions, all of which offer slightly different levels of use.

For most users, the free edition is good enough and I can’t see any need to advise the general viewing public to pay for services that they simply won’t need.

The following steps are an easy-to-follow set of instructions, and its here for those that feel a little help goes a long way! We’re not all comfortable with how computers work and a tutorial won’t do anyone (that needs it) any harm.

I’ve included screen captures, so there’s no need to worry about getting anything wrong.

Google Earth Free

The above words, Google Earth free, are another misconception about the software. As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, there are three versions, one of which is free, two of which are paid for editions – those are the Pro and Enterprise models.

The one that is more commonly known of is 100% free. No charge, no hidden costs, absolutely no money will exchange between you and Google any time down the line, guaranteed. Believe it or not there are still many people that don’t realize that the original format is and always will be ‘on the house’, so to speak.

If you’re unsure, just visit the dedicated website. Everything is explained there, nothing is hidden, and nothing is hard to understand. You get an overview of the three editions, how much they cost (for the Pro and Enterprise versions) plus a host of video tutorials that will help to get you started.

Google Earth Street View

Almost everyone loves Google Earth Street View. It’s one of the ‘layers’ that’s available to use once you’ve downloaded the application, and I have to say that it’s quite possibly the coolest element available.

In previous versions you got to zoom down to the street level on any street, road, path etc that had been previously mapped and photographed by the specially adapted cars that had a camera mounted on the roof. The following video, delivered by the guys at Google, offers a quick but insightful overview as to how the new GE6 version works.

[mc src="" type="youtube"]Google Earth 6 - Street View[/mc]

Since its inception back in May 2007, the street view option has slowly widened the net with regard to the countries that have been photographed and upload to Google Earth. So far, the layer is available to view in the following countries:

  • America
  • Canada – mainly southern and western cities/areas
  • Northern Europe
  • Large tracts of South America
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa

The above list is growing as the camera vehicles, known as Google Maps Cars, slowly make their way around various countries. Some have refused to co-operate, such as Austria, and there’s a possibility that street view will cease to exist in large parts of Europe due to wrangling with the European Commission.

There are other countries not overly enamored with the thought of a camera mounted vehicle wandering the length and breadth of their nation (the Czech Republic spring to mind) and this may well hold up or completely diminish the impact of what the application is all about.

However, the countries that are already included in the feature are still worthy of viewing. As an example, the US is vast, mile upon mile of road ways, towns, cities, wonderful sights and vistas placed right at your fingertips.

The whole of the UK is accessible, as are other European member states. Australia is also there, as is the wonderfully diverse geography and stunning places of interest that make up New Zealand. Street View is incredibly easy to use and highly addictive once you start using it to remotely view various spots around the globe.

Google Earth Developments

As the Google Earth live mapping application develops, so does its ability to engage the world at large, people like me and you, ordinary folk that enjoy getting up close and personal with the world around them. But … what’s down the line? What more can we expect over the next few years?

As is, Google have already turned the application from a static one into a fully mobile app. Currently available on Android cell phones and iPads/iPhones/iPods, when it comes to mobile technology, perhaps the sky really is the limit?

Then there are the plugins (software extras) that you can download, that enhance the user experience, in particula relation to viewing the Earth software whilst on the go. An example of a recently released plugin is the one that enables you to view the globe in a 3D format. It’s a nifty little tool, definitely cool, and a great deal of fun.

As time passes, we see smaller improvements, such as the ability to add your own 3D buildings onto the globe itself. You can create and embed your models, with all the knowledge and know-how for adding to Google Earth provided on the software’s website.

This is a fantastic way of generating user content and interest, plus there’s the additional benefit relating to the (virtual) world growing over time, as users add different buildings, monuments and more.

I’m not sure what the whole Google Earth live mapping application will eventually become but, as an interested party (and regular virtual surfer) I’m more than happy to wander on behind, learning more about the world around me as Google input more around the world for me.