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10 de Diciembre 2005

Need for Standardization for Referring to Google Earth Files

It is not surprising to notice that people are linking to locations using Google Earth on web sites all over the Internet. I write and provide links to Google Earth files almost every day. Every day people are adding links to Google Earth files in places like the WikiPedia which is a great resource and can really use a way to show locations and maps described in its contents.

However, there is something developing which I think is confusing to people. There is a huge variance at describing what it is you are linking to. Here's some examples from the WikiPedia:

  • "Map in Google Earth"
  • "Places marked out as a Google Earth placemarks file"
  • "plug-in for Google Earth"
  • "KML File for Google Earth"
  • "Google Earth placemark file"
  • "Detailed placemarks of XXXX for Google Earth"
  • "Google-Earth placemark"
  • "Map of the XXX for Google Earth"
  • "KMZ file"

On Google Earth Blog, I use...

On Google Earth Blog, I use a Google Earth logo icon to indicate when I have a link to a Google Earth file, and the mouse-over always describes the link as a "GE File". I chose to do this because the attachments in the Google Earth Community used this method, but few other web sites are doing this. Google has released another icon for such use as well, but I stopped using it because it was too large for use within my blog (it made gaps in the text layout).

Another "problem" is that a Google Earth file can contain many different things: placemarks, network links, image overlays, paths, links, and many other forms of data for the descriptions. I guess the "problem" here is that Google Earth is basically a 3D Earth-oriented browser, and can contain many different forms of content. For a web browser everyone seems to understand when you say you have a "link to a web page". But, when viewing a GE file you would rarely think of it as a "page".

The file format of KML/KMZ is also confusing. KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language (Keyhole comes from the original name to the program we now know as Google Earth). Google has been slowly going away from the Keyhole name, but its legacy confusingly persists.

In my opinion, if Google Earth files are going to become even more pervasive, then a new way of referring to the files needs to become standardized. This might be facilitated by coming up with a new file name. For example, most people know what they are getting when they get a Zip file, or a Gif. I think the compressed version (KMZ) should be the standard Google Earth file. And I think the file extension should be renamed. Possible extension names: GEL (Google Earth Location file), GEM (Google Earth Mapping file), GMZ (GE Markup Compressed), GML (Google Earth Markup Language), or maybe just GEF (Google Earth File).

Here's a thought, how about a "link to a Google Earth file"? Just some thoughts...

Another thought just occurred to me. What if Google supported GE files to be opened with Google Maps as well (to the extent the file will work there). Then, if you select a GE File your browser could default to either Google Earth, or to Google Maps (since it works in almost any browser)?

Enviado por FrankTaylor at 10 de Diciembre 2005 a las 07:40 AM

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  • Comentarios

    true that w/ the standardization
    GMZ sounds the coolest

    Enviado por: anonymous at 10 de Diciembre 2005 a las 10:20 AM

    I don't think renaming KML would be a good idea. It's well known within the GIS community and btw GML stands for geographic markup language, it's a standard done by the geospatial consortium. The "problem" you're talking about probably would be best solved by adding something like a "Google Earth protocol".

    Enviado por: Christian at 10 de Diciembre 2005 a las 03:42 PM

    You're right about the "GML" already having been taken. But, I disagree about KML. Yes, it is wide-spread, but GE is still a beta product. I think they could change the file extension without too much trouble as long as the application continued to support it for backward compatibility. As it stands, KML is a confusing name which has to be explained to people to make sense.

    Enviado por: Frank Taylor at 10 de Diciembre 2005 a las 03:55 PM

    Since KML is very similar to the GML schema I would prefer if they would support GML as their standard format instead of sticking with KML anyway. But I guess that's another (more political) story...

    Enviado por: Christian at 10 de Diciembre 2005 a las 06:04 PM

    As Google Earth becomes accepted as an earth browser, maybe it won't matter. They'll just be links :)

    I don't think that we should be referring to the file format; nobody says "here's a link to my HTML document."

    The WWW is now the web. How about starting a campaign to start referring to geographic destinations as geo sites, and the space as the geoweb? As more browsers (such as ArcGIS Explorer) come along that can refer to this new space, as long as they all use KML it won't matter what your tool is. I can just see it; browser wars all over again.


    Enviado por: Jason Birch at 10 de Diciembre 2005 a las 10:15 PM

    There definitely needs to be some kind of standardization. I've been calling them "KMZ files" but most people have no idea what I'm talking about.

    Enviado por: Jason at 11 de Diciembre 2005 a las 01:47 AM

    Jason Birch, I agree with your thoughts. Some form of word referring to "locations" needs to become the standard. There will continue to be 2D and 3D ways of viewing locations. And you are right to point out there will be multiple 3D earth viewing browsers. But, there is also several forms of data (paths, image overlays, dynamic data, someday video overlays, etc.).

    Enviado por: Frank Taylor at 11 de Diciembre 2005 a las 08:35 AM

    That's certainly true. However, I think that this kind of distinction about the type of information made available in the geodoc can be made in the reference text rather than in the link itself.

    It's got to be as easy as possible for most users. Although I would be in favour of this, there's not much chance of hoping for something like the DC metadata or, worse yet, TC211-19115. Even trying to standardise on broad categories might be too much, and it would not lend itself to easy extension.

    I'm hoping that over time this entire discussion will become irrelevant. Just as today we accept links to PDF documents without warning, and view the presented data in another application, the same will become true for spatial data.

    The next question is how long will it take for KML to follow the HTML->XML lead and move towards the the one true path that is GML. (grin)


    Enviado por: Jason Birch at 13 de Diciembre 2005 a las 12:49 AM

    I use the word "KMZ". Most of GE end users don't even know that they able to create their own KMZ.

    I think KMZ or KML is quite similar as bookmarks, favorites in IE except that it's very very advance bookmarks.

    Anyway, in my opinion "GEM" sounds good, coz it's related to the earth then the meaning is something really good at that place in the world :D

    Enviado por: max at 14 de Diciembre 2005 a las 02:31 AM

    I like to know about The file of dbCache.dat
    please tell me more about this file.


    Enviado por: Hamid at 17 de Diciembre 2005 a las 12:05 PM

    I like to use the obtained data by Google Earth in Mapping toolbox of Matlab.please tell me more about the structure of the offline data files of Google earth.

    Enviado por: Hamid at 17 de Diciembre 2005 a las 12:09 PM

    How about .GOO = Google Earth Object!

    Dot Goo files would be a hip and massive phenomona.

    Enviado por: Ray Rolfe at 24 de Diciembre 2005 a las 04:58 PM

    I'd say GE has already started standardizing them, by calling them 'placemarks' rather than bookmarks. The term 'link' really could refer to these too, since we now use it for any link to another page, file, or media on the web. We only use 'bookmark' when it's a URL, and we'd only use 'placemark' when it's a GE file. We can also keep using KML and KMZ... after all, who remembers that JPG stands for Japan Photo Group? Use 'placemark', and if the audience needs more explanation, used 'Google Earth placemark'.

    Enviado por: DaveTheCompGuy at 25 de Diciembre 2005 a las 07:50 PM

    Actually DaveTCG, I believe the "J" stands for Joint. But, in either case, you've made your point.

    Enviado por: Rip at 27 de Diciembre 2005 a las 12:37 PM

    Why not register a google earth protocol handler? IMHO it should be trivia to format a location as a URI, something like googleearth:?lat=-blah&long=blah&height=blah. That way if you could point someone rather quickly to any location.

    Enviado por: Lee at 29 de Diciembre 2005 a las 12:43 AM

    As a first time visitor let me first of all compliment you on a very good looking blog with lots of interesting stuff. Thanks!

    About the file type of GE placemarks, I think KML and KMZ is already so well established, that there is no reason to change that. The users of Google Earth could be divided in two fuzzily defined groups: Those who know about markup languages and those who don't care about markup.

    For the first group the file type doesn't matter because they'll understand how to use the placemark documents and for the second, they just happily use the rotating globe and are astonished by the beauty.

    More important than the name is that the KML documents complies with XML standard, the rational being that they will be handled by machines.
    It must be possible for software to get KMZ documents from a lot of different sources and filter and combine them to new documents on behalf of users.

    I strongly agree though, that there must be a standardized way of referring to placemarks and the documents describing them.

    The word "placemark" or "GE placemarks" is fine with me. A specialized icon to signify a download link for placemarks would be good and a easily recognizable download button for GE is on my wish list.

    On this site there is such a button leaving no doubt about its purpose. I'll add that button to my site asap to support the use of GE.

    Enviado por: Petit at 21 de Enero 2006 a las 04:04 PM

    Scott Davis has posted Matlab2GoogleEarth toolbox at the Matlab Central file exchange. Looks promising...


    Enviado por: Sven Heiken at 21 de Noviembre 2006 a las 08:07 AM

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