Earth Day is coming up this weekend, and to celebrate, Google Earth received a major update today to version 9. This version is again designed to run in a Web browser (just Chrome for now), but there’s now a standalone home for Google Earth at earth.google.com/web. The Android app has been updated, too (iOS is coming soon).
Version 9 puts a big focus on guided tours via the “Voyager” section, which serves as a jumping off point for YouTube videos, 360° content, Street View, and Google Earth landmarks. The tours are led by scientists and documentarians, with some content produced by well-known groups like the BBC’s Planet Earth team. For kids, there’s a Sesame Street muppet section. Engadget reports that this curated content section will be continually updated. Currently, there are about 40 stories.
There’s an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, which will whisk you away to a random point on Earth and show you a “Knowledge card” with a tidbit from Wikipedia, a bookmarks section, and support for Google Earth’s KML files, which allows you to easily import geographic data.
The other versions of Google Earth aren’t included in this release. The desktop app, Google Earth Pro, is still stuck on version 7 and has a ton of measurement and recording features that aren’t present in the Web browser version. There’s also the previous Web browser version of Google Earth—the one that lives in Google Maps. In addition to all the Earth imagery, Google Earth in Google Maps contains “Google Moon” and “Google Mars” content that isn’t available in this new standalone Web version.
Google says that this release was two years in the making, and support for other Web browsers will come soon.