Google Earth in Social Environment

Google is usually not too social. The Buzz that they launched didn’t catch on like Twitter or Facebook, and even though we all use the Google Search, I have an impression it’s becoming an old, web 1.0 company. Of course, I am not taking into account the smartphone market, where Android is the most serious competitor of Apple’s iOS.

Having said that, I decided to check out what Google has been up to. They have an extremely wide range of products, so I focused on Google Earth and started digging. First, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that so many new features appeared in Google Earth. There are possibilities to explore not only the Earth, but also Mars, Moon, Sky and the Oceans. From “hot” things you can see the Tsunami wave, which hit Japan, or climate change animation. But is there any social networking inside Google Earth? Not too much, just a bit.


You can see the Panoramio pictures or marked businesses, but there are no geolocated tweets, Facebook places or Foursquare check-ins. Not even Google’s own Latitude or Places data. I think Google is missing out not adding these popular social plugins. For travel agencies who individually plan trips or nights out, it would be very interesting to see which places are the most popular within some region – how many people have checked-in there. The next step, of course, would be to see some recommendations and Twitter short 140-character comments.

However, Google Earth is not totally out of social networking. It has Google Building maker, which enables everyone to build 3D buildings out of Google pictures and submit them to be published online. You cannot add your pictures, Google provides you with their own shots, but if your work is good, it will appear on Google Earth among the work of others, who also submitted their 3D buildings. Your published model will have a link to your Google Profile, where users can find more of your 3D buildings and follow you via RSS. This isn’t exactly a social network, since people still lack the possibility to freely chat through the whole creation process, and again there is a lack of connection with non-Google top social networks, but it’s a good start.

Google also went a step further and gave a possibility to convert your 3D building into a sketch, using their second product SketchUp. The product converts your model into a perfectly looking sketch. Moreover, it allows you to add measurements, create a nice plan like a professional architect or a construction engineer would do, and colour it. You can also import and export images, create solid shapes and do much, much more. See it for yourself:

I really like SketchUp. Well done Google! Take a look at some works done in the SketchUp gallery.

However, Google is still lacking a fully featured social networking experience. But there have been some news lately indicating this will change dramatically. Stay tuned for my next article on Google going social!