Rob Pegoraro’s 2-week old review of Google Earth is in The Seattle Times today, and thus misses out on reporting on all the social bookmarking innovation that’s happened in the meantime. But there’s one thing I didn’t know:
You can add “placemarks” for any interesting spots you find, then share them with other Google Earth users via an online bulletin board (bbs.keyhole.com). This ought to be directly integrated with Google Earth, instead of requiring you to save a placemark as a separate file, then switch to your Web browser to attach that file to a posting in that bulletin board.
It should then show up under the “Keyhole BBS” category in Google Earth’s Layers menu, but the program neglects to explain (as a Google publicist did) that it takes about two weeks for that to happen.
Still, the perfect review would have gone beyond drooling at the eyecandy to mention that the one thing that really makes Google Earth unique from its competitors (like NASA’s World Wind is that anyone can publish anything to Google Earth — it need not go via semi-official channels like the (still very useful) Keyhole bulletin board. If Microsoft’s upcoming Virtual Earth wants to compete, it will need to have the same level of openness.
The Wall Street Journal’s Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry have a go at Google Earth, and do find more of a future for it than Walt Mossberg did a week ago.
“After mulling it over, we think there will be a business here — eventually,” they write, though they feel the application won’t really get off the ground until it moves to cell phones and PDAs. This is a strange thing to think, as there are plenty of applications, for example web browsers and the Google search service itself, that became wildly popular before they became mobile and minute.
And while there certainly is a future in Google Earth for advertising dollars, the article does not recognize why Google Earth (and Google Maps) is a disruptive technology: It uses open standards, not proprietary ones, and it encourages user contributions and hacking by making its APIs and XML accessible. Google Earth will be a runaway success because it will make itself useful to users in ways that Google itself does not try to fathom, though Google will control the ability to advertise on the results of this user creativity. That’s very clever.
Walt Mossberg reviews Google Earth in his weekly Wall Street Journal column. He basically sees the the application as amazing eye candy, but not much more:
… there are times when even a hardened skeptic has to admit to amazement and delight at the sheer coolness of some of the things you can do on a personal computer today.
…The trouble is, I’m not sure how practical Google Earth is for most people.
Walt misses the most impressive aspect of Google Earth — its ability to let anyone publish dynamically updating content to it. This makes Google Earth far more powerful than it currently looks in its naked newborn state.
But Walt does make an (unintentional) point. Before GE can realize its promise he would need to master new file formats, a new way of visualizing information, and familiarity with a completely new browsing application. This means a learning curve. Flattening it is the job of this blog.