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November 23, 2006

Gaia - Open Source Google Earth

Gaia is "an attempt to reverse engineer Google Earth and implement its functionality in open, portable, customizable and [extensible] way".

Although the project is far from being completed, Gaia supports Keyhole authentication, 3D earth view, navigation, layers, NMEA GPS.

It will be interesting to watch this project and the added functionality. Google Earth is a proprietary application that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux, but lacks a real API. An open source alternative to Google Earth is NASA World Wind, which, ironically, is a Windows-only application.

{ Thank you, Artur Klauser. }


  1. 25 November 2006, we've got the letter from Michael Jones, the Chief Technologist of Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Local search, requesting us to cease reverse engineering and improper usage of licensed data that Google Earth use. We understand and respect Google's position on the case, so we've removed all downloads from this page and we ask everybody who have ever downloaded gaia 0.1.0 and prior versions to delete all files concerned with the project, which include source code, binary files and image cache (~/.gaia).

  2. What else did you expect ? All that hi-res imagery didn't take itself. It isn't free for the taking. Someone owns it and Google pays to use it.

  3. Nasa World wind is being converted from a .net program to a Java program so that future releases will be platform independent. No idea on the time line for this though.

  4. So what's the point ?

    We now can see how deceptive the word "free" can mean for each google service..
    You are "free" to use it, but this is just an illusion..

    Hence any other way to use those services than the one that Google approve are to cease and desist at once..

    You are warned, feel free to give them your data and "freely" use there services...

    You say it costs money? Then the first point would be to take money from the users, otherwise it is there freedom that you may take...

  5. @toots
    Em... don't no if you realise but Google buys maps off mapping companies e.g. TerraMetrics and Navteq and even then they have to put a copyright TerraMetrics or whatever. So Google are making the maps free through Google Earth & Google Maps and but only through those two. If you want satilite imagery and map overlays, go and buy them off the mapping companies yourself! And stop stealing what google paid money for.
    Just because it's "free" does not meant that it's open source and Google has every right to tell Gaia to get lost.

  6. Here's a funny message from Slashdot, regarding the cease and desist received by Gaia:

    Re:I immediately deleted my Google Earth
    by Kagura (843695)

    Why stop there? I think this pushed me over the edge. I'm not using any Google products any longer. And I haven't just stopped there, I'm boycotting any platform that runs Google products or their searches. I'm not even using my computer right now to write this. To show my indignation, I've decided to cancel my power bill. Hell, since we're already having fun overreacting, I'm just going to run naked through the streets proclaiming the end of the world, all brought to you by Google(tm).

  7. Here are some excerpts from two letters written by Michael T. Jones, Chief Technologist, Google Earth, Maps, Local :

    "The data that we license for Google Earth and Google Maps is made available for use under the restriction that it not be accessed or used outside of Google's client software. These products -- Earth, Maps, and Mobile Maps -- each have a data protection mechanism tailored to their environment. (...)

    We appreciate that you like our software and enjoy the many millions of dollars and years of labor that the licensed data represents. Unfortunately, your curiosity about the protected server mechanisms ignores the Google Earth Terms of Service, the software license agreement that you accepted when installing Google Earth, the built-in encryption mechanisms within the client/server protocol, the economic rights of a worldwide network of providers who license this data to Google, and most of all, the sense of fair-play that is the basic relationship between Google and its users worldwide. (...)

    We on the engineering team are hopeful that despite the risk your actions (break the ToS, reverse engineer parts of the data protection mechanisms, publish the fact and code, encourage others) pose to our product, team, company, and users, we remain hopeful that this was an unintended result of what started as intellectual curiosity by a smart engineer like ourselves who has a passion to learn how things work.

    Are we right? If so, we really need to have you take down that code and refocus your work toward building an open earth viewer that uses open earth images (such as from NASA) or licensed earth images from willing providers rather than having the basis of your project being the improper use of our images. (...)

    We have in the past and continue to license very expensive data to make Google Earth and Google Maps products. The terms of the license that we signed include a promise by us to prevent anyone from accessing the data other than through Google software. Violations of this promise (such as Gaia source out in the world) not only cost us money and force the disruption by forced upgrade of 100M+ users as we change protocols, they actually put our entire operation at risk since the data providers loose trust that their data, which they sell directly, is out there for free and could put them out of business. Please understand that the Digital Globe satellite cost about $500M so the data is *very* expensive. We are like an iPod for Earth images. If people could get the music out to play on other platforms then the music companies would not allow Apple access to the music in the first place. This is the situation."

    1. It's interesting the parallelism with the Music Industry, if you think about, is Really interesting...

  8. I don't think so...

    Any content that reaches a user's computer should be allowed to be used any way that the user wishes. For Instance, users should (and in most cases legally can) be able to take data from a webpage, and use it in an application/script of their own. Same with all other protocols and applications. I think that if somebody wanted to take an existing (free) program, and make improvements over the original design, that person should be completely able to do that as he/she sees fit. If that person does a good job, maybe he/she will have found a career :P

    The same goes with Google Earth. While Google Earth is a very handy application by itself, there are many other possible applications that the imagery and other media contained within could be used for, and the user should be allowed to do that, if he/she wishes to do so. To say that somebody is unable to manipulate their OWN DATA ON THEIR OWN COMPUTER, or unable to send any request they want over the internet is just foolish.

    It's like saying somebody can't put a new video card in their computer, or sew a logo onto their favorite shirt. It should be allowed, and the GAIA project should therefore live.

    Thank you for reading my thoughts,

  9. but its not your own data. It belongs to someone else. In the case of Google, when you installed the software to access it, you agreed to the licence terms which said that you wouldn't use that data. You agreed to it (or you wouldn't have installed it, obviously).

    You are basically suggesting that possession is 100% of the law - if you have it, then it belongs to you. I think MS would take exception if you took your installed copy of Office, zipped it up and said 'it belongs to me now'. Similarly, Google takes exception if you copy their images and pretend that they belong to you.

  10. I think the WWW is indeed a web of deception. Had "they" asked the public way back "may we put wires into your home and watch all your communications traffic?" clearly there would have been civil war. However.. offer up an "information highway" (god, what a low life label.. should call it the "information gutter") with every form of perversion folks can deny they download privately.. and make it "free".. then you can just keep tapping, sapping and yapping. Google isn't guilty of anything other than trying to make a buck like any other information broker... but.. you have to beware of any information broker.. because it's not what they "give" out, it's just that while they are leaning into you to "give" you something, they are reaching into your pockets all 'round. That said..
    a) ALL internet access should be free... why does all traffic go thru Hernon VA anyway ? Is roadrunner part of the NSA or CIA ?
    b) Since the DOJ involvement with MS there's more tracking systems built into MS than there is useful software, and it's not just annoying, it's crippling. I'm a systems architect and there's zero excuse for the *existence* of trojans, viruses etc.. however... along comes something 'cute' and information is just as powerful a crippling agent.
    c) The information gathered by google probably well affords their ability to give away map data for personal use. The only reason to care whether we have our own proggy is ... eh.. hehehe.. backdoors and pockets.
    d) Why is it that pretty much anything illegal on the net is ONLY ILLEGAL FOR AMERICANS ? This is a crippling tactic by politicians who want to be king instead of president or governers.
    Get all the google images from China for free while THEY break all the laws with the BLESSINGS of our leaders.

    This isn't a discussion of freeware vs. making a buck. It's a question of global positioning and politics.

    Some of us feel terrible to have ever laid the foundations of this slime pit.

    But... pimp me out for $30/hr (used to be $150/hr... price of whoredom has cheapened with "positioning" and "cheap half-done imports") and "I'm there too"...

    After all.. isn't it "the American way" ? hehehe

  11. I'm writing an open source viewer, that will be distributed in binary/compiled form for Win32, Mac, Linux etc.
    It will run as a plug-in, in your web-browser and it can communicate with it through Javascript.

    It will of course be able to view all the data you can ever view in a certain other viewer, but I will NOT provide any link to this data - the viewer will come but naked, except some lowres freeware data I'm using. I expect the communities on the web to handle the rest.
    It will then be up to the individual user to take his/her own decision about copyright infringements. See you in court. I will win!

  12. essa cois é legal dá pra vc ver a sua cidade desse s´télite

  13. Greenport has a good point. The law states that when you broadcast a radio signal, anyone can receive the signal for free. If you record a song off the radio or TV, you can play it as much as you want for your own entertainment, for free, and not worry about paying royalties. Selling it and giving it away of course are frowned upon. Which is I suppose what Gaia is.

    Of course if you build a satellite system which decrypts a signal so you can see all of the content, that is fine, so long as you keep it to yourself. Hobbyists have the right to tinker in their own house. Sharing too much of their learning experience upsets those who developed those encryption algorithms, and then it becomes a war where the highest-paid lawyers win. And here we are. Ought to be a way _some_ of this can be done legally, to promote the tinkering aspect.

  14. I think it's nice no one has really shown aggression. All controversial conversations should be like this. Laid back and passionate, like being a liberal that has to make a threat. Like a gangsta with a gun for a crossing guard at the boobie hatch. runnin up to old ladies threatening to let him carry their groceries and put them away.

    Sort of Bipolar x Bipolar? Aha! Quadripolar. This blog is Quadripolar.

    Tssss...ahhh my brain. Laterz

  15. @ August 1, 2009 post:

    Ummmmmmmmm.......... wHaT?????

  16. I think the issue here is data can be copied therefore it should be free for everyone. If you could copy bread would you still force the starving masses to pay for it? Proclaiming it cost you billions of dollars to develop the technology. It's the same with knowledge, it's a basic human need, it's the reason we are the dominant species and not animal food. And data in any form is just knowledge any way you turn it, it should be free for anyone who wants it. Too bad Earth is a world ruled by greed.

  17. Googleearth is not working any more on my 64 bit Linux box: the so-called 64bit version is really a 32 bit version and I do not have the 32 bit that it requires, after upgrading my graphic card and its software.

    So I was looking for an alternative, and I come to this interesting page.

    A real pity for gaia project !

    I think that any restriction on software use should decade after a not too long period of time.
    Five or seven years at most.
    After this period Open Source Software should have the
    possibility to use it in any way. Reverse engeneering it if necessary.

    Investments must have the chance to be repaid, of course, but this must not encourage monopoly.

    New laws on this subject are badly needed !

    Sergio Steffe - Pisa - Italy


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