Google Earth is now accessible through a browser via the Google Maps page. The plug-in for Google Earth has been available for quite some time now, so this is only a natural progression. On the Maps page there is now an “Earth” view in addition to Map and Satellite. Terrain has been relegated to the “More” category.
It looks like the Earth view has much of the same functionality as regular Google Earth. You can zoom, pan and even change the angle for a 3D view. The imagery is just as sharp as regular Google Earth. You also have access to 3-D buildings, etc., which previously wasn’t possible in Google Maps.
There are some limitations, though. There are some performance issues with the application opening slowly, or hanging up in some browsers. The amount of screen real estate is limited. You can’t open KMZ/KML files from your desktop. You can pull them into Google Maps if they are already online. Lots of the other tools available in stand alone Google Earth are also not available, such as all of the cool layers and the the ability to open and create complex Google Earth files.
One neat thing is that you can open any files saved under “My Maps” in Google Earth view. You can also embed Google Earth views into blog posts and other web sites. Below I’ve opened up a map of a recent Enoree River paddling trip that I had stored in Google Maps. I opened it in Google Earth view and embedded that view. It functions almost the same as if I were looking at the Maps page.
View Enoree Paddle – Whitmire Stretch in a larger map
If you’re in a situation where a stand-alone version of Google Earth isn’t available, this might be a viable alternative. While the overall imagery isn’t much different from the satellite view, the navigation and 3D capabilities make it a different experience. It is an excellent addition to the Google collection of mapping tools.