Announcing V1.1 of the “New” Map Style

A few months ago, we launched our new map style which provides a unique backdrop for information delivery and helps content “pop” on the map, allowing people to find what they are looking for more quickly.

The initial feedback was positive but we were given great constructive feedback – users appreciated the new style’s uniqueness and loved the clean, calm look; but, some felt it made aspects of our maps more difficult to read. Specifically, users were interested in:

1. City density – how many cities appear at each zoom level?
2. Street differentiation – can viewers tell which city streets are major and minor?
3. Color contrast – are different map components easily distinguishable?

We’ve updated our map style to reflect user feedback so it’s even easier for people to find where to go, how to get there, and what to expect along the way. Key changes are:

A. Increased city density while preserving a clean, visually appealing map
B. Clearer differentiation between major and minor city streets
C. Greater color contrast at the city-level so streets “pop” out more
D. Altered font sizes and contrast for crisper, less cluttered map labels
E. Improved highway shields for US and added new shields for 7 countries

Pictures are worth thousands of words though, so let’s jump into screenshots (or just head straight to Bing Maps to explore). It is difficult to distinguish the differences in these lower-resolution screenshots, so please click on the screenshots or text links to view the full-size pictures


Screenshots #1 & #2 – Zoom Level 5, United States Western/Mountain and Central/Eastern Zones
Key Differences:

  • · Increased city density to avoid large expanses of empty space and bring up cities people are likely interested in (See: Montana/Idaho/Utah/Wyoming/Dakotas in Screenshot #2 and Southeastern states in Screenshot #3)
  • · Added thousands of city labels in less populated areas while reducing overcrowding in the most densely populated ones. Also ensured that cities and state/province names do not overlap where possible to improve readability.

Bing Maps Style V1.1: Zoom 5, Western US Screenshot #1

Click to View Screenshot #2


Screenshots #3 – Zoom Level 16 Seattle
Key Differences

  • · This screenshot demonstrates a lot of the color contrast and brightness changes made at lower detail levels to differentiate among streets.
  • · Freeways (such as I5) had their color intensified by 200% and brightness increased by 5%. Major roads (such as 4th Ave) had their color intensified by 400% and brightness increased by 5 points. Minor roads (such as 1st Ave) had their color intensified by 200% and brightness increased by 5 points as well.

Bing Maps Style V1.1: Zoom 16, Seattle StreetsScreenshot #3


Screenshot #4– Zoom Level 4, United States
Key Differences:

  • · Sharpened the font for state/province names and country names to improve readability
  • · Reduced the information detail at this zoom for smaller countries to reduce clutter (See: Mexico and island countries in the Gulf)

Click to View Screenshot #4


Screenshots #5 – Zoom Level 6, Pacific Northwest United States

Key Differences:

Learn about the human side of climate change with Kofi Annan

[Cross-posted on the and Official Google Blog]

Climate change is too often misunderstood to be simply an environmental issue, rather than a human issue. For our children and grandchildren, climate change is an issue of public health, economics, global security and social equity. This human side of climate change is explained in a new Google Earth tour narrated by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Within these stories, you’ll find data and tools to explore this topic in more depth, and meet some of the people who are actively working on managing the risks of climate variability and change. We encourage you to take the tour to learn more about these human issues and the inspiring work of groups like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) that are helping farmers cope with climate change. We hope this video will serve as a useful tool as educators help students around the world understand the complexity of this issue.

This is the latest in our series of climate change tours that we’re releasing leading up to the global U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP16) talks in Cancun, Mexico this week.

As part of the Google Earth for Educators Community, we’ve also created a special Climate Change Educators Resources page that teachers can use in their classrooms. Here, teachers can find the tools they need to create lesson plans about climate change, including all the individual Google Earth KML layers available for download. Teachers and students can overlay multiple data layers that help illustrate climate change, and discuss and analyze them as part of K-12 and higher education curriculum. We’re also looking for lessons plans for any school grade that use this narrated tour or these Google Earth KML layers, so if you’re a teacher or instructor, please submit your lesson plan for review now.

Visit or the Climate Change Educators Resources page to learn more about climate change today.

Introducing Google Earth 6—the next generation of realism

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Today we’re introducing the latest version of Google Earth, our interactive digital atlas. Now you can explore your childhood home, visit distant lands or scope out your next vacation spot with even more realistic tools.

In Google Earth 6, we’re taking realism in the virtual globe to the next level with two new features: a truly integrated Street View experience and 3D trees. We’ve also made it even easier to browse historical imagery. Over the next several days, we’ll be digging deeper into these great new features, but here’s an overview to whet your appetite.

Integrated Street View
When Google Earth was first introduced, people were wowed by the ability to virtually fly from outer space right down to the roof of their house. While flying over rooftops gives you a super-human view of our world, the ground level is where we experience our daily lives. We took our first baby steps toward bringing the Google Earth experience to street level with our implementation of Street View in Google Earth in 2008, which enabled flying into Street View panoramas. In Google Earth 6, the Street View experience is now fully integrated, so you can journey from outer space right to your doorstep in one seamless flight.

Now, you’ll notice that Pegman is docked right alongside the navigation controls—an ever-present travel companion ready whenever you want to get your feet on the street and take a virtual walk around. Just pick up Pegman and drop him wherever you see a highlighted blue road to fly right down to the ground. Once there, you can use the navigation controls or your mouse to look around. And unlike our earlier Street View layer, you can now move seamlessly from one location to another as if you’re walking down the street by using the scroll-wheel on your mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard. If you want to visit somewhere farther away, simply click the “exit” button and you’ll immediately return to an aerial view where you can easily fly to your next destination.

Drag and drop Pegman to enter Street View. The blue lines indicate where Street View imagery is available.

3D trees
I think we can all agree that our planet without trees would be a pretty desolate place. Besides the ever-important task of providing us with the oxygen we breathe, trees are an integral part of the landscape around us. In Google Earth, while we and our users have been busy populating the globe with many thousands of 3D building models, trees have been rather hard to come by. All that is changing with Google Earth 6, which includes beautifully detailed, 3D models for dozens of species of trees, from the Japanese Maple to the East African Cordia to my personal favorite, the cacao tree. While we’ve just gotten started planting trees in Google Earth, we already have more than 80 million trees in places such as Athens, Berlin, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Tokyo. Through our Google Earth Outreach program, we’ve also been working with organizations including the Green Belt Movement in Africa, the Amazon Conservation Team in Brazil and CONABIO in Mexico to model our planet’s threatened forests.

To enjoy these leafy additions to Google Earth, make sure you turn on the 3D buildings layer on the left side panel. As a starting point, try a search for “Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco.” Once you arrive at your destination, click the zoom slider. You’ll then be taken down to the ground where you can use our new ground-level navigation to walk among the trees.

3D trees in San Francisco, California

Easy-to-use historical imagery
One of the features people told us they liked best in Google Earth 5 was the availability of historical imagery, which enables you to visually go back in time to see such things as Warsaw in 1935, London in 1945, and Port-au-Prince Haiti before and after the devastating earthquake of January 2010. But it wasn’t always obvious when historical imagery was available for a particular place, making this feature one of Google Earth’s lesser-known gems.

So with this new version, we’ve made it very easy to discover historical imagery. When you fly to an area where historical imagery is available, the date of the oldest imagery will appear in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. If you click on this date, you’ll instantly be taken back in time to view imagery from that time period. You can then browse through all the historical imagery available for that location, or simply close the time control and return to the default view.

The site of Google’s Mountain View campus in 1948

To download Google Earth 6, or to see videos of our newest features, visit