Google April 26 integrated Google Earth into Google Maps, providing an Earth view to Maps as a different way of looking at the world on the Web.
Hundreds of millions of people use Google Maps to get directions for driving, bicycling and walking to destinations, check traffic patterns, see street-level views and gather other directional info. Ditto for Google Earth, which provides 3D representations of mountains, buildings and the ocean.
Thanks to Google Maps and Google Earth, plenty of users may peep the planet's topography from their Web browser.
Starting today, users can click the "Earth" button in Google Maps. Users who don't already use Google Earth will be prompted to install the Earth plugin to see Earth view in Maps.
Users will be able to zoom to any location and use navigation tools to pan around the browser. Users can "tilt" their view by holding down the shift key and the left mouse button while moving the mouse. Links to the views may be e-mailed to friends.
Users can toggle between Map, Satellite and Earth views, meaning they will be able get directions and search for businesses to see their Place Pages the same way they already do in Google Maps.
"Because Earth view is built right into Maps, you can switch back to cartographic view simply by clicking on the "Map" button," wrote Google Product Manager Peter Birch in a blog post. "The view will even adjust automatically to a top-down, north-heading perspective as you transition."
Earth view is available in the same browser types and iterations that are covered by the Google Earth Plugin. This includes Google Chrome 1.0+, Internet Explorer 7+, Firefox 2.0+ and Flock 1.0+ on Microsoft Windows, and Safari 3.1+, Firefox 3.0+ and Google Chrome 1.0+ on Apple Mac OS X 10.4 and higher.
This integration is core to Google's mission to not only organize the world's information online and make it accessible, but do it in as easy and efficient manner as possible. Plenty of Google Maps users simply don't know about Google Earth, and now they might if they click on the Earth button while doing a search on Maps.
Conversely, there are probably plenty of Google Earth users craving integration with Google Maps, which satisfies directional searches for several users.
Google isn't alone in photographing the world's topographies. Microsoft's Bing Maps does a serviceable job with its Silverlight plug-in.
In other Google Maps news, the Maps Street View feature April 26 added local business annotations to its locations.
When users are accessing Street View and see an interesting business, they can click on an icon that will take them to the business listing to learn more info about that business.