Oct. 5, 2011 at 6:03 PM ET
Six years ago, Google Earth came to life as a rich, visual program that brought the world to us in a whole different way than we'd ever known, putting satellite imagery we wanted to see it, right on our computer desktops. Wednesday, the free program — now on our phones and tablets, as well as computers — reached 1 billion downloads.
"We’re proud of our one billion milestone, but we’re even more amazed at the way people have used Google Earth to explore the world," wrote Google Earth and Maps vice president of engineering, Brian McClendon, on Google's LatLong blog.
At Google's new OneWorldManyStories website, the company has collected stories from people worldwide about how they have used Google Earth "to follow their dreams, discover new and distant places, or make the world a better place," McClendon said.
Among the latter: Roz Savage, who recently rowed by herself from Australia across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, believed to be the first woman to do so, all in the name of raising awareness about marine pollution.
There's also Professor David Kennedy of the University of Western Australia, "who’s used Google Earth to scan thousands of square kilometers in Saudi Arabia and Jordan," McClendon wrote. "Professor Kennedy has discovered ancient tombs and geoglyphs dating back at least 2,000 years, all without leaving his desk in Perth."
Also cited is architect Barnaby Gunning, who, after the 2009 earthquake near L’Aquila Italy, "encouraged his fellow citizens to start rebuilding the city virtually in 3-D. Their online urban planning will aid city planners and architects."
The planet is getting to be a smaller place, in many ways. Google Earth adds to that feeling, but in the best sense of the word and the world.