Zooming around Google Earth is always mesmerizing, but it just got a little more informative. The product added user descriptions and photos, pushing a “Geographic Web” layer on top of the landscape. Many such mashups are currently available, but community-powered markups previously required downloading a separate file.
Little icons now indicate selected entries from Wikipedia, geo-tagged photos from Panoramio, and posts by the Google Earth Community. All of this is very sparingly done, but it’s great to see Google incorporating community content into the default version of one of its product.
We didn’t recall hearing of Panoramio before, so we looked it up. Turns out it’s a small Spanish photo-sharing startup with just two developers and 50,000 total photos (as of the end of October). Google Earth had previously hyped the Panoramio feed on its download page. The 3D animated photo mashup is similar to what we’ve seen of Microsoft’s Photosynth experiment. Where Photosynth is more elaborate, having pictures rooted to a map and all this surrounding context is the cheapest form of tourism we know of.