Google Earth's "3D buildings" layer is now bigger and loads faster, making it better than ever! In Google Earth 4.3 you'll notice that we modified the sub-folder names in the "3D Buildings" layer to more accurately reflect the multiple sources of 3D data. "3D Warehouse" and "Other Buildings" have been replaced by "Photorealistic" and "Gray".

As the names imply, the "Photorealistic" folder consists of photo-textured 3D buildings, while the "Gray" folder contains untextured buildings, largely extruded building footprints.

The "Photorealistic" folder contains buildings published to the 3D Warehouse, cities and towns of all sizes via the Cities in 3D program, as well as signature buildings and and auto-textured city models generated by Google. We're introducing tens of thousands of 3D buildings around the world for Google Earth users to explore. Included in the mix are dozens of urban centers including Oakland, San Francisco, Baltimore, Phoenix, Austin, Tampa, Orlando, Raleigh, Boston, Charlotte and Atlanta. In Europe, city models for Munich and Zurich now join Hamburg, which prior to today was one of the few complete cities models in Google Earth. In Asia, there are thousands of new buildings in dozens of Japanese cites, including Tokyo and Hiroshima.

San Francisco, CA

Boston, MA

Munich, Germany

Tokyo, Japan

We've been focusing our efforts on developing the larger cities around the world, but this shouldn't prevent smaller cities and towns who are eager to get on the map from participating as well. The Cities in 3D program provides an easy path for cities or local governments to efficiently contribute their data to Google. Some of my small town favorites are Boise Idaho, Amherst Massachusetts, and even the little hamlet of McMinnville, Tennessee.

Boise, Idaho

Models from 3D building enthusiasts account for a significant portion of the buildings in Google Earth. In fact, user-contributed models that meet our acceptance criteria are incorporated into the auto-generated cities. Better yet, data provided by users contains meta-data (such as an address, description, links, etc.) for the building. Please keep the those 3D buildings coming! The virtual 3D mapping of the world is really beginning to take shape and we'll need the continued support of the community to make this possible. If you'd like to take a crack at modeling a building for Google Earth, the tools are free and everything you need to get started can be found here.

This leads me to another new feature in Google Earth 4.3: we've made it easier to view a building's details. If you hover your mouse over a building that contains meta-data, the building will appear highlighted in blue just like a link on a webpage. When you click on the building, a Google Earth bubble appears displaying more information about the model. No longer do you have to sort through the yellow house placemarks!
I mentioned that it was faster, right? What I meant to say was *screaming* fast. Google Earth 4.3 loads an entire 3D city in seconds -- it's amazing to watch. Fly to any of the cities I mentioned, turn the "3D Buildings" layer on and see for yourself. To achieve our vision of creating a mirror-image of the earth we need deliver massive amounts of data to your desktop. To solve this challenging technical problem our engineering team developed an entirely new technology to more efficiently stream the massive volumes of 3D data available we'll continue to add to Google Earth.

I could go on forever, but I want to get back to exploring my new 3D world, and I'll leave you to start exploring for yourself!