As Declan promised, there are two long articles in France’s Le Monde today (in French) about satellite mapping — one of them focusing on Google Earth proper. (The other looks more broadly at the satellite imaging industry.)
The article about Google Earth begins badly by describing the application as a website, and appears to conflate Google Local with Google Earth, as it lists both NASA World Wind and Windows Live Local as the competition. But then it redeems itself by reporting an interesting observation by Thierry Rousselin, a GIS consultant. Rousselin maintains that geobrowsers like Google Earth constitute a second revolution in the democratization of maps, but one no less momentous than the first one, at the beginning of the 20th century.
What happened then? Translating:
Companies that had nothing to do with mapping, that sold petrol or automobile parts, like Michelin, launched themselves into the production of maps in order to give the first motorists a taste for the road. This liberated cartography, which had until then been principally confined to servicing war ministries.
With Google as the outsider this time around, it’s a clear case of déja vu. The internet now, just like cars then, was a relatively new phenomenon whose disruptive nature competely rewrote the demand picture for maps. And it is Google now, like Michelin then, that moved to fill the need. I’ve learned something new today:-)