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June 15, 2010

Google Earth Includes a Web Browser

Google Earth 5.2 no longer uses the operating system's web browser when you click on links. Google Earth comes with a WebKit-based browser, so you'll never have to leave the application to open a Wikipedia page or the website of a local business.

"Sometimes when you want more information, you may want to click through to a link to see the full Google Places page for a business, or learn more about a photographer whose photo you really enjoy. In the past, this has required opening a link in an external browser to see the full page. For Google Earth 5.2, we've added an embedded browser that lets you browse the full web. Click on a link, and the browser pane slides across the screen. When you want to return to the Earth view, just click the Back button," explains Google.

Apparently, Google Earth uses the Qt port of WebKit (QtWebKit) and it doesn't include the V8 Javascript engine from Google Chrome. I tried to run the V8 benchmark suite in Google Earth and the result was very poor: about 10 times lower than the latest Chromium build.

As in the previous versions, Google Earth for Windows and Mac also includes a plug-in that lets you embed a Google Earth view in any web page. Google Maps is the most popular service that lets you use Google Earth in your browser. Now you can browse the Web in Google Earth and use Google Earth in a Web browser.

If you don't like the embedded browser, you can disable it by going to Tools > Options > General and checking "Show web results in external browser".


  1. and because of it everything in google earth that involves the browser takes ages to load. at the initialization of the browser the application stops responding :(

  2. Probably Qt WebKit as Google Earth is based on Qt. It is probably also based on the latest stable version of Qt which is 4.6 and already quite old. Qt 4.7 is about to be released and so is a separate QtWebKit2.0

  3. @Anon:

    You're right. I updated the post.

  4. Hey great information about the google earh...Google Earth is a virtual globe, map and geographic information program that was originally called EarthViewer 3D, and was created by Keyhole, Inc, a company acquired by Google in 2004. ...thank u for sharing information with us

  5. I read that once you are inside the browser, you can click on links and move from one web page to the next. Anyway, thanks for posting!

  6. I read suprisedly that JavaScriptCore is 10
    times slower than V8 engine. :o

    I investigated what caused this strange result. Google Earth 5.2 based on Qt 4.6.1 (released on 19th January 2010.) JavaScriptCore in this Google Earth release doesn't use JIT compiler. I haven't got any idea why, because its JIT is absolutely stable and significantly faster than interpreter.

    On my Linux machine I rebuilded Qt 4.6.1 from source and replaced in Google Earth directory and got more friendlier results.

    V8 with JIT disabled: 664 pt
    V8 with JIT enabled: 2669 pt
    --> 4x speedup, so Chrome is faster only 2.5x

    SunSpider with JIT disabled: 1489 ms
    SunSpider with JIT enabled: 466 ms
    --> 3.2x speedup, so Chrome is faster only 10%

    Consequently we shouldn't throw out powerful JavaScriptCore of WebKit, but rebuild with JIT enabled for the next Google Earth release.

    Csaba Osztrogonac (ossy[at]webkit[dot]org)
    WebKit developer
    University of Szeged

  7. Google Earth is being used for a variety of earth observations tasks including measuring deforestation, unearthing Egyptian tombs, and educating youth about our planet.

  8. Google Earth is really useful. You could spot a place if you don't know the way to go there.

  9. You can easily find the exact location of a place in Google Earth. No need to use maps and sort out those places. Just type in and once click and there it is! As simple as that.