Out of the many geospatial tools in existence today, one of the most popular and well-known is Google Earth. The name “Google” is already familiar to many as an internet-based search engine used by millions every day. Google Earth was introduced to the public in June of 2005 as an imagery-based mapping service that could be downloaded to a personal computer . Google Earth provides satellite imagery of the entire earth in an interactive format. With the click and drag of a mouse, the user can easily navigate to any location on the earth to view a satellite image of that area.
Google Earth as a geographic information system has several advantages and disadvantages. One of Google Earth's greatest advantages is the ability for the user to view an image of an area and then quickly move to another part of the earth for observation. Other perks that have drawn in the public audience include 3-D terrain and buildings and a street view that allows the user to view the world from a ground-based perspective.
Google also offers other information along with the imagery. Roads, services, points of interest, and even weather are just a sampling of the geographic information available to the user. Google Earth even allows the general public to upload their own images or text and place them on the map for the world to see. These tools all aid in the ability for the user to identify and create his or her own areas of interest.
Despite the many positive aspects of Google Earth, like any software it does still have its flaws. One disadvantage of Google Earth is that the resolution of the image varies depending upon the location; this may make it more difficult for the user to view certain areas of interest. In addition, the satellite data in Google Earth are limited to observation of what is currently selected by Google; one cannot choose to display the imagery from a certain date or a particular satellite. The imagery is also not available for extensive editing or analysis.
One of the most significant contributions of Google Earth to the geospatial community is that it has allowed the public to grasp a better understanding of geographic phenomena. Google Earth is a powerful tool in making scientific issues more relevant to the uninformed viewer. This software can also communicate scientific findings through a very effective and convincing medium .
- The ethics of Google Earth: Crossing thresholds from spatial data to landscape visualisation Stephen R.J. Sheppard (2008)