Google Earth eclipses one billion downloads

October 5, 2011 by Glenn Chapman
View of the African and European continents on Google Earth on a computer screen in Paris 2005. Google Earth software has been downloaded more than one billion times, and that stellar achievement was marked Wednesday with a website showcasing ways the interactive replica of the planet is used.

Google Earth software has been downloaded more than one billion times, and that stellar achievement was marked Wednesday with a website showcasing ways the interactive replica of the planet is used. features 40 real-world tales of how people around the globe have used Earth to follow dreams, defend nature, explore distant places, or learn about the planet.

Of course, Google Earth maps let people travel virtually to locales where such stories play out.

"Google Earth is probably one of the most downloaded applications of all time in terms of raw numbers," product manager Peter Birch told AFP.

To provide context, Google Earth and Maps vice president of engineering Brian McClendon pointed out that a billion hours ago humans were living in the Stone Age and that a billion minutes ago the was flourishing.

"We're proud of our one billion milestone, but we're even more amazed at the way people have used Google Earth to explore the world," McClendon said.

"When we founded Keyhole, Inc. back in 2001 we never imagined our geospatial technology would be used by people in so many unexpected ways," he continued.

McClendon was a co-founder of startup Keyhole, which Google bought in 2004 and turned into the free online Earth atlas launched in June of the following year.

The service weaves satellite images and aerial photos into 3D interactive graphics which people can zoom into, starting from space and homing in on buildings or plots of land.

Google Earth stories include that of a professor from the University of Western Australia who used it to discover and geoglyphs without leaving Perth.

Professor David Kennedy scrutinized Google Earth recreations of thousands of square kilometers (miles) in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, discerning clues to the whereabouts of archeological treasures.

Retired English teacher Jerome Burg created Google Lit Trips, which uses Google Earth to let readers follow paths set in famous books such as "The Travels of Marco Polo" and "The Odyssey" by Homer.

Renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle takes Google Earth users under the seas to rally allies in a quest to stop widespread devastation of marine life.

Conservation group Save the Elephants uses the Internet Age atlas to track and safeguard magnificent pachyderms.

Google Earth has been used to help clear land mines, rebuild earthquake-shattered towns, stop mining operations from blasting off mountain tops, teaching geography to children, or simply see one's home from above.

A US couple living in Ireland even used the online atlas to research an ideal place in Oregon to plant a vineyard.

They didn't see the property in person until it was time to close the deal that led to the founding of their dream winery, Grande Dalles.

"Nobody anticipated all the things people would do with ," Birch said.

"It's a little hard to know where people are going to take it next," he added. "The more you can raise awareness of how we impact the world, the more there will be a chance for change."

Explore further: Google Earth impacts science

Related Stories

Google Earth impacts science

August 1, 2006

The world's scientists are increasingly using Google Earth's digital globe, which has also attracted millions of non-scientists around the world.

ESA provides space images to Google Earth

November 16, 2006

The European Space Agency says it will create special content to appear in Google Earth, focusing on such events as volcanic eruptions and dust storms.

NASA and Google Launch Virtual Exploration of Mars

February 2, 2009

( -- NASA and Google announced Monday the release of a new Mars mode in Google Earth that brings to everyone's desktop a high-resolution, three-dimensional view of the Red Planet.

Google Earth dives into oceans and WW II

February 5, 2010

Google Earth mapping service is letting people use the Internet to dive into the world's oceans or see the ruin that World War II bombings rained on European cities.

Recommended for you

Roboticists learn to teach robots from babies

December 1, 2015

Babies learn about the world by exploring how their bodies move in space, grabbing toys, pushing things off tables and by watching and imitating what adults are doing.

Xbox gaming technology may improve X-ray precision

December 1, 2015

With the aim of producing high-quality X-rays with minimal radiation exposure, particularly in children, researchers have developed a new approach to imaging patients. Surprisingly, the new technology isn't a high-tech, high-dollar ...

Making 3-D imaging 1,000 times better

December 1, 2015

MIT researchers have shown that by exploiting the polarization of light—the physical phenomenon behind polarized sunglasses and most 3-D movie systems—they can increase the resolution of conventional 3-D imaging devices ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
i use google earth to try to find waldo.
not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
Didn't know it was still so widely downloaded with all the online map content that is available now.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2011
It's a must have application as far as I'm concerned. There is no excuse to not have it on your PC, it's small, free, and amazingly useful unless you are a complete shut-in.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.