Frank Taylor, who runs the well-regarded Google Earth Blog has posted his concerns about the decreasing support for Google Earth desktop, and the fact that it may be dying a slow death.
There are a number of reasons to be concerned with this in my view, even as we might feel reassured that Google incorporates some aspects of Google Earth into Google maps.
Note that even then Google Maps may switch you forcibly into “Lite Mode” which does not support Google Earth. On my relatively powerful desktop with good Internet connection I can only run Lite Mode. (If I go to google.com/maps I can enter “Earth mode”–it’s not clear why there are two different browser versions.)
One concern is that GE is great for educational uses, and its KML file format great for sharing maps and map services in the classroom. I’ve used GE in multiple mapping and GIS classes and students find it easy and attractive to use. GE is a “gateway drug” to more fully featured mapping and GIS!
Taylor speculates on a second concern that may be driving this–monetization of other products and a relative decline in interest in GE. This speaks to a decreasing interest in innovative geovisualization.
Google Earth is not dead (and GEB just noted new imagery was pushed out for Google Earth). Other Google projects like Project Tango (3D mapping of space, like an interior StreetView, are tantalizing but some way off just yet.
Many of our current students have grown up with GE (it’s been around since 2005 and came to fame during Hurricane Katrina). But I’m going to start looking for alternatives for my classroom.