Friday, December 12, 2014

The End of Earth as We Know It

Google has announced that they will be closing down the Google Earth API on December 12th 2015.

The main reason given by Google for the retirement of the API is its reliance on the NPAPI plugin framework. Chrome and Firefox have both recently announced that they will no longer be supporting this framework for security reasons. Another reason may be that the Google Earth API isn't hugely popular with developers.

Not only does Google Earth require a plug-in to work in the browser it can also be fairly slow to load. With the huge advances in WebGL globes and the popularity of the Cesium JavaScript library for creating WebGL 3D globes the Google Earth API is no longer the logical choice for developing 3d earth views for the browser.

In today's announcement about the deprecation of the Google Earth API, Google also said,

3D is in our blood, and while we can’t announce anything just now, we look forward to sharing more exciting product news in the future.

This strongly hints that there will be a replacement for the Google Earth API. This could either be a new WebGL based version of Google Earth for the browser or possibly a 3d globe view in the long overdue Google Maps API v4.

Google Maps API v3 creates maps of a vastly different feel and design than the new look Google Maps. In the new look Google Maps when you zoom out you are able to view a 3d Google Earth type globe. You are also able to view 3d globes of the Moon and Mars. If Google do ever get around to releasing a v4 of the Maps API it is possible that the 3d globe Earth, Moon and Mars views will be available as options to Maps API developers.
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