There is an absolutely fascinating post on Avi Bar-Ze’ev blog, Brownian Emotion. Avi, it turns out, was one of the co-founders of Keyhole, and one of the first software developers to work on what would become Google Earth. In his post, he is remarkably candid about the Skyline patent infringement suit against Google:
… [I]f their patent is so clever and Keyhole had actually copied any techniques, wouldn’t you expect Google Earth to perform as poorly (IMHO) as Skyline’s own software?
Ouch. (He goes on to call the suit “a mistake at best”.)
Avi’s expansive post covers some other interesting topics related to Keyhole’s early days. Here he talks about the deep internals of Google Earth:
People don’t often realize, but a lot of the ideas about geo-targeted advertising and dynamic content were planned out from the beginning. We deliberately built a 3D search engine inside the app, from day one, to sift through just about any kind of spatialized data with minimal overhead. In truth, GE is only superficially an “earth browser.” It’s actually very similar to Google’s massive search engine servers, but using spatial queries instead of keywords, with as much of the code and data residing on your computer as necessary to ensure the best interactive response. I imagine that’s the main reason Google bought the company, apart from the cool visuals.
Read Avi’s full post — there are many more such nuggets. (Standard web disclaimer: I don’t know Avi so can’t vouch for him, but Googling him brings up authoritative sites that lend plenty of credence to what he writes.)