Google Earth Locals

While Google Earth has search built in for businesses and layers for restaurants, bars and museums, these features only work in a few countries. For most of the world, this kind of local cultural knowledge has been provided ad hoc by committed amateurs, but now some enterprising businesses are taking advantage of this gap in the market.

Exhibit A:, a Swedish service I use regularly to buy tickets to concerts, has come out with a network link that lists all venues in Sweden, and also all its upcoming events sorted by dated folders, with pop-ups for information. It’s still beta — the obvious thing missing is the link to the ticket-sale page in the pop-up — but it is immediately useful for things beyond tickets: It comes with high resolution overlays for Sweden’s second city, G√∂teborg, which has not yet been blessed with Google Earth’s own hi-res images.

(The dated folders are a kind of stop-gap measure for doing your own time-based search. If/when Google Earth adds a time browser, this kind of network link will become even easier to use.)

Exhibit B: About month ago Cape Town Magazine came out with a static KML file that obsessively listed every hip coffee shop, restaurant and clothing store in Cape Town, and much else besides. Most items are linked back to articles in the magazine, providing a whole new way of navigating its content.

At the moment, you have to send them an email to get access to the file, but they are planning to soon come out with a proper network link, so that updated content in their magazine is reflected simultaneously on Google Earth. That’s a clever tactic — not just because it increases interest for new content, but because I think there is a first-mover advantage in effect here: Whoever lays claim to a city with comprehensive coverage first will likely become the default option with the locals — there is no point in having four placemarks enabled for each museum.