It’s midnight in Mountain View, so the embargo’s over: There’s a new version of Google Earth coming out today, Google Earth 4.3, though it won’t actually hit Google’s download servers until 8pm local time (
00:01 03:00 UTC Wednesday morning.) In the meantime, briefly, here’s what to expect, as recounted by Google Earth product manager Peter Birch:
Revamped navigation: New users should find it much easier to get around Google Earth. Zoom in and the view automatically tilts to horizontal, and there is a new look-around control. (Also, relative height is now used to determine movement speed, not absolute height.)
Images get easily viewable acquisition dates: Move the pointer over a piece of high resolution imagery, see the acquisition date at the bottom of the screen.
More and better buildings: 3D rendering has been rethought — low res versions of textures download first, followed by higher res (which is more like how Microsoft Virtual Earth does it, from the sound of it). There’s whole new towns available by default, and many more Google Earth Warehouse buildings.
Flash support for Mac: Finally, we once again have feature parity for Windows and Mac versions. This means YouTube videos are now viewable in Mac version of Google Earth. Yay!
Street View comes to Google Earth.
New sunlight control: When turned on, see where it is day and night on Earth, using the time slider. Zoomed in, watch the sun rise or set over the landscape. (There will likely be comparisons made to this feature in NASA World Wind, not least by World Wind developers themselves :-)
12 new languages: Google Earth will now also be available in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian (isn’t that just a Swedish dialect? :-), English(UK), Spanish (Latin American), Finnish, Hebrew, Indonesian, Portuguese(PT), Romanian, Thai, and Turkish.
What’s “missing” from this release? Of the most requested features, there will not (yet?) be revamped support for tours, no new pole-friendly projection, no 3D bathymetry and no GeoRSS support. Google Earth joins Microsoft’s Virtual Earth in getting a revamp, so perhaps it’s high time for a head-to-head review…