The biggest changes to Google Earth in 2016

The Google Earth client only saw bug fix updates this year. However, there were a number of significant changes to the imagery and layers.

Global Mosaics
In June, Google updated the global mosaic composed of Landsat imagery that is seen in Google Earth when you zoom out. In November, Google added global mosaics to historical imagery created with Landsat and Sentinel 2 imagery showing the earth from 1984 to date.

Lion, the Saroo Brierley story featured in a Voyager layer
In November, Google updated the Voyager layer to Edition 3 featuring the story of Saroo Brierley who found his way home with the aid of Google Earth.

No ‘historical imagery’ updates
Google has been very active with imagery updates adding new imagery on an almost weekly basis. For the first half of the year we were able to track these changes with the help of ‘historical imagery’ and the Google Earth API. But, from about July onwards, although Google has continued to add imagery to the default layer, no updates have been made to ‘historical imagery’ other than the addition of the global Landsat / Sentinel-2 mosaics mentioned above. This has made tracking the full extent of imagery updates impossible.

Weather layers dropped
The weather layers were broken then fixed in 2015 and then broken again in 2016. Rather than fix it, Google chose to remove the layers from Google Earth. The layers removed were “Conditions and Forecast” and “Ocean Observations”. The “Clouds” and “Radar” layers still work.

Panoramio
Google announced that it will be shutting down Panoramio. The Panoramio layer in Google Earth is very popular and has a lot of photos in areas where Street View doesn’t have coverage. The shutdown date is set for November 2017. We had a brief scare when the images stopped showing in Google Earth and we thought the layer had been removed early, but it turned out to be a technical problem that was soon fixed.

Google Earth Plugin / API
Having been deprecated in December 2014, Google announced that the Google Earth Plugin / API will finally be shut down on January 11, 2016.

Old versions
In addition to shutting down the Google Earth plugin / API, Google is discontinuing support for Google Earth 4 on January 11, 2016.

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

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