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Google Earth passes 1 billion download mark

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Google Earth / Newscom

(Read caption) Google Earth has surpassed 1 billion downloads, Google announced today.

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When it was introduced in 2005, Google Earth felt like a distinctly modern way of seeing the world – a spinning, interactive digital mosaic, which incorporated satellite and aerial photographs with troves of geospatial data. In the years since, Google Earth been a favorite tool of news organizations, scientists, governments, and geography buffs. It is has also attracted its fair share of criticism.

Today, Google Earth hits a new landmark: An astonishing 1 billion downloads across the Google Earth desktop client, mobile app, and Google Earth plug-in.

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"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," Google exec Brian McClendon wrote in a blog post this week. "When we founded Keyhole, Inc. back in 2001 (the company was acquired by Google in 2004), we never imagined our geospatial technology would be used by people in so many unexpected ways."

McClendon pointed readers to a new website, OneWorldManyStories.com, where Google has collected stories from Google Earth users. Meanwhile, Google already has its sights set on the next big hurdle: 2 billion downloads. In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Peter Birch, product manager for Google Earth, said he planned to improve mobile access, and incorporate more input from users.

"Something we want to do more is bring in more user content and make it easy for people to find and publish mapping data, whether historical imagery or photographs," Birch explained. "Getting more people to be able to create and share is really where we're going."

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