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Google Earth reaches one billion downloads

google-satellite-japan-earthquake-damage-shotAfter six years of offering users the ability to peruse satellite imagery of the planet from the comfort of their home computers, Google Earth has hit the one-billion download mark.

“How large is one billion? One billion hours ago modern humans were living in the Stone Age. One billion minutes ago, the Roman Empire was flourishing. If you traveled from Earth to the Moon three times, your journey would measure one billion meters,” wrote Google Earth and Maps vice president of engineering, Brian McClendon, on Google’s LatLong blog.

“Today, we’ve reached our own one billion mark: Google Earth has been downloaded more than one billion times since it was first introduced in 2005,” he continued. “That’s more than one billion downloads of the Google Earth desktop client, mobile apps and the Google Earth plug-in—all enabling you to to explore the world in seconds, from Earth to Mars to the ocean floor.”

Still offered as a free program, Google Earth began its journey to one billion downloads as a project founded by Keyhole, Inc. in 2001, which was then acquired by Google in 2004.

Regarding the download achievement, McClendon wrote that one of the most surprising things about the technology wasn’t that it was so popular, but rather the creative uses people put it to over the last six years. Some of those uses are documented at the website www.OneWorldManyStories.com, which presents stories from Google Earth users around the world.

Among the stories collected on the site is an account of how Google Earth was used to present high-resolution imagery from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan to aid workers, evacuees, and anyone else in need of information about the area.