Google Earth 5 Beta Released

Dennis Faas's picture

You may have thought Google extending its mapping services to cover the night skies the ultimate in its universal expansion. But you'd be wrong: now the Google Earth service is going underwater, on to Mars and even back in time.

The newest edition, Google Earth 5, has just launched and includes detailed information about the oceans for the first time. Previous editions had simply shown a blue patch in the appropriate areas, with the only detail being darker shading to show the deeper points.

Given that most of the world is underwater, that was something of an obstacle to a firm that's often joked about as being out for global domination. The revised edition gives extensive detail about the ocean floors, a move inspired by a comment made by a leading marine biologist who told Google Earth's creator he might as well call the old version "Google Earth". (Source:

The new service only covers about 5% of the ocean floor as that's all that's been mapped in much detail. But ocean researchers say it will be a useful tool for showing their findings without audiences having to don wetsuits.

The system also includes maps covering the land surface of Mars using data gathered by NASA. Some of the mapping is available in 3D, giving users some idea what it's like to control the Mars lander research robots. Ironically, it's been only ten months since Google played an April Fool's joke claiming it was teaming with Virgin to colonize Mars.

Other features in the new edition include historical maps. These are only available for certain locations (indicated with a clickable clock icon) and use a slider to move back and forth in time. At the moment they are mainly for major cities (for example, letting users see the expansion of Las Vegas). (Source:

The system also includes a new touring feature allowing users to create a 'fly-through' tour of a region simply by pressing a record button before clicking and dragging their way around the desired route. This could have plenty of practical uses, for example in letting a real estate agent put together a guide to the different neighborhoods in a city.

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