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How often does Google Earth Update?

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Google Earth is another splendid product from Google that gives a 3D (three dimensional) image of Earth. The photographs come from satellites, obviously. It allows the users to see all around the world within their screen.

The idea behind Google Earth is to act as a geographical browser that combines all the images received from satellites in composite form and binds them to form a 3D representation. Google earth was formerly known as the Keyhole EarthViewer.

Our entire planet can be viewed using this tool, except for the hidden places and military bases. You can spin the globe at your fingertips, zoom in & zoom out as you like.

One thing to keep in mind here is, Google Earth and Google Maps both are very different; one should not interpret former as the latter. According to the product manager of Google Earth, Gopal Shah, “You find your way through Google maps, while Google Earth is about getting lost”. It is like your virtual world tour.

How often does Google Earth Update

Are the images in Google Earth real-time?

If you think that you can zoom in to your current location and see yourself standing on the street, then you might want to reconsider. As we have mentioned above, all the images are gathered from different satellites. But can you get real-time images of the places you see? Well, the answer is No. Satellites collect the images as they revolve around the earth over time, and it takes a specific cycle for each satellite to manage and update the images. Now here comes the question:

How often does Google Earth Update?

In the Google Earth blog, it is written that it updates the images once a month. But this is not it. If we dig down deeper, we get that Google does not update all the images every month.

Speaking on average, the Google Earth data is approximately one to three years old at an instant. But doesn’t it contradict the fact that Google earth updates once every month? Well, technically, it does not. Google earth does update every month, but a tiny portion and it is impossible for an average person to detect those updates. Every part of the world holds certain factors and precedence. Hence the updates of each part of the Google Earth depend on these factors:

1. Location & Area

A constant update of urban areas makes more sense than the rural areas. Urban areas are more prone to changes, and that requires Google to cope up with the changes.

Along with its own satellite, Google also takes pictures from various third parties to speed up their processes. Therefore, more updates on high-density areas speed up drastically.

2. Time & Money

Google does not own all the resources; it needs to buy a certain part of its images from other parties. This is where the concept of time and money comes. The third parties do not have time to send aerial photos of all over the world; neither do they have money to invest for that.

You must have noticed that sometimes all you can see is a blurry image when you zoom in too much, and a few times you get to see the car parking of your place clearly. Those high-resolution images are created by aerial photography, which is not done by Google. Google buys such images from the parties that click these photos.

Google can only buy such images only for required high-density areas, hence making money and time a factor of updates.

3. Security

There are many confidential locations, such as confined military bases that are rarely updated due to security reasons. Some of these areas have been blacked out since forever.

It is not only for government-led areas, but Google also stops updating those areas where suspicions arise of using images for criminal activities.

Why aren’t the Google Earth updates continuous

Why aren’t the updates continuous?

The above-mentioned factors answer this question too. Google does not obtain all the images from its own sources; it relies on several providers, and Google has to pay them, obviously. Considering all the factors, it will require a whole lot of money and time to update continuously. Even if Google does that, it is not at all feasible.

Therefore, Google comprises. It plans the updates according to the above factors. But it also has a rule that no region of the map should be more than three years old. Every image has to be updated within three years.

What specifically does Google Earth update?

As we have mentioned above, Google does not update the whole map in a single go. It sets updates in bits and fractions. By this, you can assume that one update may only contain a few cities or states.

But how do you find the parts that have been updated? Well, Google itself helps you by releasing a KML file. Whenever Google earth is updated, a KLM file is also released, which marks the updated regions with red. One can easily pot the updated regions by following the KML file.

What specifically does Google Earth update

Can you request Google for an update?

Now that we have looked into different considerations and factors, Google has to obey in updates, is it possible to ask Google to update a certain region? Well, if Google starts updating on requests, it will shatter all the updating schedule and would cost a lot more resources which won’t be possible.

But don’t be sad, the region you are looking for might have an updated image in the “historical imagery” section. Sometimes, Google keeps the older image in the main profiling section and posts the new images in historical imagery. Google does not consider new images to be accurate always, therefore if it finds an older image to be more accurate, it will put the same into the main app while putting the rest in historical imagery section.

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Here, we have talked a lot about Google Earth, and you must have understood all the idea behind its updates. If we summarize all of the points, we can say that Google Earth updates bits and parts rather than following a fixed schedule for the update of the whole map. And to answer the question of “How often”, we can say – Google Earth performs updates anytime between a month and three years.

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Elon Decker

Elon is a tech writer at TechCult. He's been writing how-to guides for about 6 years now and has covered many topics. He loves to cover topics related to Windows, Android, and the latest tricks and tips.

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