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April 26, 2010

Google Earth Tab in Google Maps

Google Maps replaced the terrain tab with a tab for Google Earth. When you click on the Earth tab, Google asks you to install a plug-in for Windows or Mac. If you have a recent version of Google Earth, you already have the plug-in.

"Five years ago, shortly after Google's acquisition of Keyhole, we introduced the first integration of Keyhole technology into Google Maps -- Satellite view. Suddenly, you could see what places actually looked like from the air, and easily switch between this view and the map view. Mapping has never been the same. A few months later, the desktop Google Earth application was released, and now we have over 600 million downloads. Today we are proud to announce the next major step in the marriage between Google Earth and Google Maps -- Earth view," says Peter Birch, from Google.

Even though the new view makes it easier to use Google Earth, since you no longer have to open a new application, I think it's a bad idea to add it to Google Maps. Google Earth plug-in uses a lot of resources, it slows down your browser and it continues to run in the background even if you switch to the Map tab. What's more, if you open Google Maps in another window and switch to the Earth tab, a new instance of the Google Earth plug-in will load.

{ Thanks, Andrew. }


  1. Shouldn't this be a labs addon instead? Terrain view is the only view that I care for.

  2. Terrain view is still available. Click on the "More" tab and you'll find it.

  3. Since there's no Linux version of the plugin, I can't even try it.

  4. "Google Earth plug-in uses a lot of resources"

    Using it with Google Chrome 5.0.342.9 beta, I could not reproduce this. The GE plugin cost only 4 MB. Not only is this small as an application, it is also small compared to other Chrome extensions and plugins that I use.*

    "it slows down your browser"

    I noticed no performance lags with it running in the background.

    "it continues to run in the background even if you switch to the Map tab"

    Confirmed, but with no noticeable side effect.

    "If you open Google Maps in another window and switch to the Earth tab, a new instance of the Google Earth plug-in will load"

    Could not confirm this. I saw a single GE plug-in no matter how many Maps pages I had open simultaneously. When I closed the last page, the GE plug-in terminated within about 5 seconds, freeing up the 4 MB.



    * Snapshot taken just now:
    Notifier For Google Wave, 6 MB
    Reader Notifier, 10 MB
    Select To Get Maps, 6 MB
    AdBlock, 14 MB
    Google Sidewiki, 11 MB
    ChromeReload, 5 MB
    Google Mail Checker, 6 MB
    Google Voice, 8 MB URL Shortener, 5 MB
    Google Calendar Checker, 5 MB
    RSS Subscription Extension, 5 MB
    Browser Button for AdBlock, 7 MB
    Send from Gmail, 6 MB
    Google Gears Plugin, 8 MB
    Google Earth Plugin, 4 MB
    Google Talk Plugin, 2 MB

  5. @Scrvpvlvs:

    Open your operating system's task manager and you'll notice that geplugin.exe uses at least 100 MB of RAM. Chrome's plugin is just a bootstrap.

  6. Yup, I relied on the Google Chrome task manager to provide complete data and that was my mistake. The GE plugin process created one child process for each viewport tab. Each viewport process consumed between 50 MB and 175 MB on my PC depending on what I did with them. If a viewport tab was closed and a new one opened within 30 seconds, the process was reused by the new tab; otherwise it was terminated.

    The fact that I had no performance lags tells me the GE plugin plays well with Windows XP. The memory observations suggest that the PC had better have plenty of RAM or there will be slowdowns caused by competition for the available RAM. This goes equally for anyone running Google Earth of course.

  7. Google Earth (as it is now) seems like a poor replacement for the terrain view, not just because it's sluggish on less powerful machines, but also because it shows a lot less information (labels and terrain features) at the same zoom level. In fact, I had been hoping Google might add a terrain-like mode to Google Earth!

    As it is, the Google Earth view might be more appropriate as a "3D" option under "Satellite" (along with "show labels"). The terrain view, incidentally, still appears to be available, under "More".

  8. When I initially saw the posting I was hoping that Google was introducing a browser based version of Earth, in Maps. That would of been excellent.

    For me, it works great in Chrome and Firefox, but I hate that now we have yet another browser plugin installed, and Google Earth runs in the background. Soon enough I'm sure they'll figure out how to make it entirely web based.

  9. The Earth plugin is smart about multiple windows with multiple Earth instances.

  10. I hope they make a linux version soon!!!!

  11. Resource-intensive tasks use a lot of resources? Really? I must blog about this ...

  12. I'd like to see a Google Maps view that takes terrain, and adds contour lines, footpaths, rivers & streams, etc. Satellite views are interesting and technically impressive, but not so useful for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, etc.

  13. The intriguing aspect of this to me is that clicking on the Earth tab in Google maps prompts the plug-in install.

    It seems that Google is trying more intensively to put their various products in front of people. Some will call this good marketing. Others will call this their ongoing quest for world domination ;)

    If the plug-in starts crashing non-Chrome browsers I'll start worrying...

  14. The terrain view in Google Maps has contour lines, (most) rivers and streams, and at one point it looked like they had started adding some trails as well (e.g. in the Olympic National Park; seem to be gone now).

    The terrain view still lacks a lot of information that can be found in the (otherwise outdated) USGS topo maps (see e.g. But it does a much better job showing terrain features when zoomed out (better than Google Earth, too).