June 4, 2010

Integrate Earthview into Your Site


Hostway Team

By Melissa Luther

Google Earth is a popular desktop application that allows users to see the Earth in amazing, 3D detail. Users can fly to their chosen location, then zoom, pan and tilt to view it from all angles. Now some of those same features are available in Maps, via Earth view.

Earth view is immediately available to anyone who already has Google Earth installed. Visitors without the desktop application can install a plug-in, which is supported in most browsers. Google has also released the Google Earth API, so anyone can add Earth view to their Web sites.

Exploring the world in 3D from the comfort of your browser is obviously fun and even educational, but how useful is Earth view for businesses?

For the moment, Earth view lacks many of the features of Google Earth’s desktop application, such as historical imagery, GPS tracks, tour-creation and KML editing. As a result, users may find Earth view less intriguing than Earth, and it may be too early for Web designers to fully utilize this new offering.

Another potential drawback is the limited 3D building images available. On the plus side, anyone can create and submit 3D building images with Google’s Building Maker application, as long as Google already has aerial images of the building. This means if your business if available in aerial shots, you can access those pictures in Building Maker and create a 3D image of it. You can also make 3D images of the surrounding neighborhood. When you save your image to the 3D Warehouse, it will be submitted for permanent inclusion in Google Earth.

Hopefully, Earth view users will help grow the 3D image library. If Google also introduces more of Earth’s features into Earth view, then it could become a very useful addition to your Web site. Even if you don’t plan to use it right away, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you might be able to use it to enhance your Web site’s value to your customers.

A few ideas:

  • Showcase your business in 3D. While not strictly necessary, it’s much more interesting than Street view. It may also make it easier for customers unfamiliar with the neighborhood to find you.
  • A bike shop or sporting goods store could offer a resource page for finding nearby biking or hiking trails. The 3D images in Earth view would allow visitors to see the trail to better gauge its difficulty.
  • A travel agency can help visitors choose their vacation spots by viewing and comparing destinations.
  • A real estate agent might provide Earth view for potential buyers to view a building or home for sale and its surrounding neighborhood. Initially this might be easier with commercial buildings in large cities, where 3D images are more likely to be already available. You may also be able to use Building Maker to create the 3D images yourself.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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