Author Archives: Gopal Shah

1,000 of the most stunning landscapes in Google Earth

Ten years ago, I was flying over San Francisco when this strange but kaleidoscopically beautiful vista opened up outside of my tiny airplane window. When I got home, I fired up Google Earth to investigate. The aerial wonder along the southern tip of the bay turned out to be the Salt Ponds. Microorganisms reacting to the salt runoff in these waters color the pools surreal hues, and the resulting chromatic smudge is visible miles above Earth's surface. As an amateur photographer, I instinctively took a screenshot of the landscape now clear on my laptop. And with that simple act, Earth View was born.

San Francisco Bay Area Salt Ponds

Our first Earth View, the San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds

Earth View is a collection of thousands of the planet's most beautiful landscapes, seen from space. Over the last decade, the collection has been witnessed by millions around the world as wallpapers for Android devices, screensavers for Chromecast and Google Home, and as an interactive exhibit in Google Earth's Voyager. Earth View was even once featured on the world's biggest billboard to bring a little zen to Times Square during the holidays.

Today, we're making our biggest update to Earth View by adding more than 1,000 new images to the collection, bringing the total to more than 2,500 striking landscapes. The upgraded imagery features more locations around the globe and is optimized for today's high-resolution screens—featuring brighter colors, sharper images and resolutions up to 4K.

All the new imagery is available in the Earth View Gallery, as well as the popular Earth View Chrome Extension. The gallery also now features a nifty color map to help you visualize the thousands of Earth View locations, and find a landscape featuring your favorite color.

Earth View color map

Filter more than 2,500 Earth Views by color or region

To bring Earth View to life, we've collaborated with our friends at Ubilabs in Hamburg, Germany. Together over the past several years, we've refined a set of tools that help us scour 36 million square miles of satellite imagery, while maintaining fine camera control to get just the right shot. To prepare the final image, we optimize the color profile for the particular landscape, and export the final image in ultra high resolution.

Learn how we capture Earth Views

Learn how we capture Earth Views

Earth View started simply enough—a curiosity pursued by the curious. Over the decade, that tiny seed sprouted several limbs, and today this imagery has been seen by millions of people the world over. For me, Earth View's resonance is the bigger curiosity. As a species, we've only had access to views from space for the last 50 years. Yet something encoded in us long ago seems to wake up when we see the world at this unprecedented scale. 

Earth View has the power to elevate our minds from our tiny screens to outer space—the landscapes that materialize when you open a new tab or unlock your phone punctuate your day with a global looking glass. My hope then is this funny, little project—along with Google Earth as a whole—moves us to care more deeply about this strange but kaleidoscopically beautiful planet. 

Create your own maps and stories in Google Earth

As humans, we've always bonded by sharing stories about the places that matter to us. It likely started around a campfire—elders recounting tales of sites sacred to their people. Today, we use technology to celebrate our ancestry, raise awareness about places we care about, and rekindle memories of home.

For nearly 15 years, people have turned to Google Earth for a comprehensive view of our planet. But our mission has never been to just show you a static picture of the planet; we want to bring the world to life. With new creation tools now in Google Earth, you can turn our digital globe into your own storytelling canvas, and create a map or story about the places that matter to you.

See how a teacher, conservationist and family are using the new creation tools

See how a teacher, conservationist and family are using the new creation tools

With creation tools in Google Earth, you can draw your own placemarks, lines and shapes, then attach your own custom text, images, and videos to these locations. You can organize your story into a narrative and collaborate with others. And when you’ve finished your story, you can share it with others. By clicking the new “Present” button, your audience will be able to fly from place to place in your custom-made Google Earth narrative.

See what people are making with the new creation tools:

Two years ago when we rewrote Google Earth for modern browsers and devices, we launched the Voyager program to start to infuse the globe with stories from the world's best storytellers. Today, we’re taking the next and most significant step forward: turning the power of mapmaking and storytelling over to you. 

Creation tools are now available in Google Earth on web. You can view your projects on mobile and tablet devices using the latest version of our iOS or Android app. Thanks to an integration with Google Drive, you can share your stories with your audience and they can view it anywhere—their phone, tablet or laptop. Best of all, you can invite others to collaborate and co-author projects with you. 

Check out what you can do with the new creation tools:

We're excited to see the stories you tell in Google Earth, and we'll continue to build out this new capability with your help and feedback.

How we explored the whole wide world with Google Earth in the past year

From polar bears in Canada to the highest peaks on the planet, hundreds of millions of people searched to the edge of the world and beyond with Google Earth in the last year.

On Earth Day 2017, we shared a brand new version of Google Earth that works on the web, Android and iOS. Since then, hundreds of millions of people, big and small, took a spin on the globe; armchair explorers everywhere followed along with more than 300 Voyager stories in 8 languages; and we learned that you can have too much of a good thing ?.To celebrate the past year of whizzing around the globe, here’s a look at what made Google Earth go round over the last 365 days.


1.  Home is where the searches start. But they don’t stay there.

The first place most people search for on Google Earth is home. But that’s only the beginning. From there, you search most for natural wonders and famous landmarks of the world, like Times Square, Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, Mount Everest and Niagara Falls. Many of you have an out-of-this-world fascination with Area 51. And, yes, we recently saw a bump in searches for Wakanda.

When it came to physically leaving home, many people stuck with classic travel destinations like New York City and Paris. But you also had dreams of oceanside views and crystal waters—our next most popular travel itinerary was for Santorini, Greece.

2. Three billion people got an updated view of their neighborhood.

We’re updating the imagery you see in Google Earth and Google Maps all the time. Within the past 12 months, we’ve added enough new 3D and 2D imagery to cover 3 billion people, or about 40 percent of the world’s population. New York City, Stockholm and Hakodate, Japan are just some of the more than 400 cities and metro areas that got a makeover with new high-resolution 3D imagery.

3. Yahtzee! You’ve rolled the dice 190 million times.

I’m Feeling Lucky is now one of Earth’s most popular features. It’s simple: Click the dice icon and fly to a random, awesome place on the globe. Since launch, you’ve rolled the dice 190 million times, or about six rolls per second. And because it’s almost our favorite day of the year, Earth Day, we’re feeling extra Lucky—Earthy, even. Tweet #ImFeelingEarthy to @googleearth and see where it takes you.

4. You’ve got mail! The world created $50 million worth of postcards.

We’ve all been there: Daydreaming about that next great adventure. That’s why we built the Postcards feature for our Android and iOS apps, so that once you found that beautiful place—Lagos, Portugal, anyone?—you could share with a friend and get them dreaming too. Last year, you created more than 40 million postcards—in postage that’s about $50 million, €39 million or ¥3 billion.

5. You got the warm fuzzies watching 18 live animal cams.

Thanks to’s network of live nature cams in Earth, you could observe brown bears fishing for salmon in Alaska and polar bears poking around the Tundra Buggy Lodge in Churchill, Canada. Even when Charlotte and Charlie’s osprey nest was empty, we couldn’t look away! Stay tuned for puffin and guillemot action in the next few weeks.

Cute animal photos courtesy of

6. Voyager stories took you from home to space, and everywhere in between.  

From the Great Sphinx to Mars to a crater in Mexico, millions of you followed along with more than 300 interactive tours in Voyager. Our most popular stories introduced new cultures and habitats: This is Home, I Am Amazon and BBC Earth’s Natural Treasures. Teachers and students explored the solar system with Japan’s Miraikan and investigated the end of the dinosaur age with HHMI Biointeractive. And some stories were just great eye candy: Earth View and NASA’s Earth at Night.

We built an eclipse generator for the coolest event of 2017.

It’s been a busy first year for the new Google Earth! Here’s to another 365 days of exploring the world.

Welcome home to the new Google Earth

Nearly everyone who's opened Google Earth in the last decade does the same thing first: they search for their home. Home is how we orient ourselves—it's where we start from. This might mean a one-story craftsman in a Wisconsin suburb. Or a house made of reeds on a floating village in Peru.

Then we zoom out. We see our neighborhood, then our city, our province, our country, our continent, and eventually: our blue marble. Out in space, our planet looks impossibly small. But improbably, it’s home to all of us. On the eve of Earth Day, I'm reminded of something I've learned watching people use Google Earth over the years: Home is not just how we understand our place in the world—it’s a means to connect to something bigger than ourselves.

Explore the new Google Earth

Today we’re introducing a brand-new version of Google Earth—on the web and Android—two years in the making. With the new Earth, we want to open up different lenses for you to see the world and learn a bit about how it all fits together; to open your mind with new stories while giving you a new perspective on the locations and experiences you cherish. It’s everything you love about Google Earth, plus new ways for you to explore, learn and share. Zoom in and see what adventures await you in the new Google Earth.

Broaden your horizons with Voyager

We've joined up with some of the world's leading storytellers, scientists and nonprofits to bring the planet to life with Voyager, a showcase of interactive guided tours.

Start with Natural Treasures from BBC Earth, and journey to six habitats—from islands to mountains to jungles—and learn about the unique and thrilling wildlife in each. Then head to Gombe National Park in Tanzania and hear from Jane Goodall about her team’s chimpanzee research and conservation efforts. And make a stop in Mexico with Lola, one of 12 little monsters featured in Sesame Street's Girl Muppets Around the World, and learn about modern Mayan cultures. With more than 50 immersive stories in Voyager, and more added weekly, there are lots of adventures to choose from.

Explore and learn about anywhere

Uncover hidden gems the world over with “I’m feeling lucky,” a new feature that takes you somewhere unexpected with the click of a button. You might discover the lush green Pemba Island off the Swahili coast, the historic La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy or the Zao Hot Spring in Yamagata, Japan. We’ve curated 20,000 different places, so roll the dice and see where the world takes you.

Uncover hidden gems like Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias in Valencia, Spain.

Once you’ve landed on a point of interest, open a Knowledge Card to learn history and facts about that place and see more pictures of it. To add a dash of serendipity to your travels, flip through the stack of cards and discover related places. You might find yourself in Valencia, Spain and stumble on the beautiful Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias.

Share the beauty you find

Click the new 3D button to see any place from any angle. Swoop around the Grand Canyon and see geological layers, or check out the majestic architecture and pristine grounds of the 500-year-old Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley in France.

When you find a view that leaves you breathless or inspires a fond memory, share a Postcard of your exact view with your friends and family. They can click the link to jump right to where you were (virtually) standing.

Bringing it all back home

We hope that after visiting your house in the new Google Earth, you'll be inspired to see someone else’s. Get started with a special Voyager story called This is Home, a journey into traditional homes from cultures around the world. You’re invited to step inside a Peruvian chuclla, a Bedouin tent and a Greenlandic IIoq, and meet the people who live there. Check back to visit more homes in the coming months.

Get the new Google Earth now on the web in Chrome; on Android as it rolls out this week; and on iOS and other browsers in the near future. (Of course, you can still access and download Google Earth 7 for desktop.) Hold it in your hand, pass it around a classroom, fly around the world and walk inside places thousands of miles away in incredible detail. Feel free to lose yourself a little—with Google Earth you can always find your way back home.

Google Earth: The 25-Year Search

Remember back to the time when you first opened Google Earth. Where did you fly? Nearly all of us search for the same place: Home. The starting point. Where we fit into the bigger picture, and one way we define our sense of identity.

Imagine if you didn't know where "home" was? What would you search for first?

In 1986, 5-year-old Saroo Brierley fell asleep on a train parked at a rural station in central India. He awoke to find himself locked in an empty carriage barrelling through the Indian countryside to an unknown destination. After two days and nearly 1600 kilometers, the train reached its final stop, the enormous Howrah station in the sprawling Indian megacity, Kolkata. Saroo disembarked alone, far away from family and no way to get home. Living on the streets for months, Saroo survived a series of harrowing encounters before he was taken to an orphanage. In time, he was adopted by an Australian couple and brought to Tasmania.


The Brierleys gave Saroo a loving home and a second chance, but memories of his birth family haunted him. As he grew older, these echos became louder until his early 20's when he was finally compelled to search for his lost home and family. Right around this time, Saroo heard about a new program called Google Earth. He realized he could use the tool's satellite imagery to find familiar landmarks, and lead him to the train station from his fleeting memories of that fateful night. Night after night for three years, Saroo followed train lines from space, combing through thousands of stations until one day in early 2012, he finally found the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Thanks to his unwavering determination, Saroo reunited with his birth mother after 25 years. Saroo's improbable story has been a source of inspiration to all of us on the Earth team and to many around the world. We're especially excited his story will reach new audiences with the release of the new film, Lion, on November 25.

To celebrate the film's upcoming release, we invite you to retrace Saroo’s journey through the Finding Home experience now available in Google Earth’s Voyager layer. The experience takes you behind-the-scenes of Saroo’s search—what he used to guide him, the odds he faced, and how with a lot of will and a bit of luck, he was able to find home.