Google Drops Google Earth API
Written by Ian Elliot   
Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Google isn't one to keep something it doesn't want hanging around just in case someone else still wants it. So another API bites the dust. You have one year to - do what exactly? There is no alternative to migrate to.


The reasons for Google's axing of the Earth API seem reasonable enough. There is a move away from the NPAPI plugins because they are insecure. Both Chrome and Firefox have announced that they are removing support for NPAPI and recommend that plugins are converted to JavaScript.

Of course you can't convert the plugin to anything if it isn't your plugin and the Google Earth API makes use of a NPAPI plugin to allow you to write JavaScript based applications.  

Google has now decided that the Google Earth API is deprecated (as of 12th December) and it will be discontinued completely, i.e. turned off, on December 12th, 2015. You may also have problems running anything that uses it before that time as browsers turn off NPAPI support - but at least you can always use an old browser.




As the Geo Developers Blog says:

"Over six years ago we introduced the Google Earth API, enabling developers to build rich 3D mapping applications in the browser, using JavaScript. And over the years, developers have built quite a number of fascinating applications."

Yes indeed. So that's a bucket load of "fascinating apps" heading for the scrap heap. 

Google's justification is that the use of the Earth plugin has shrunk to just 0.1%, a figure that has been requoted by many a news source as proof that no-one really cares about the Earth plugin. However, if you think that Chrome is used for 50% of all the page accesses per month on the entire web then 0.1% usage of the Earth plugin is still a lot. 

But we are good programmers and we have to respond to the fact that NPAPI is a dying technology and this isn't Google's fault. We should simply roll up our sleeves and get on with building new and revised apps that use Google Earth - but we can't. There is no replacement API for Google Earth. You can still use KML to import customizations, but as for building apps that make use of Google Earth there is no way of doing it. 

There are some noises coming out of the Geo Developers Blog that something might replace the API:

"Google Earth has a proud legacy, which continues with the new Google Earth for Android, powered by a brand new renderer. 3D is in our blood, and while we can’t announce anything just now, we look forward to sharing more exciting product news in the future."

This really isn't fair treatment of programmers who put time into building something with the old API. 

This time is it not the fact that Google is dumping an API, but the way that it is being dumped that is so disappointing. 

It is yet another reason to be very careful about what Google APIs you choose to include in your apps. 



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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 December 2014 )