More on Google Earth... with all the Google Map and now Google Earth "hacks" popping up you have to ask yourself, is this slick geospatial viewing tool much more than simply a viewer, and even more so, is it a very clever way to access and integrate licensed data and imagery within your own custom application without having to license the data?
Google will tell you that Earth is bringing geospatial data to the mainstream user's desktop.. no question there. But I simply can't figure out how clever users such as those at Prudential Chicago are legally allowed to serve up a custom real estate search application, with high-res imagery, and get away without paying licensing fees for the data... doesn't everyone else have to pay for that data? There's this implied vision that Earth and all the imagery available on the users' desktop is free and without restriction. Naturally there's an agreement that one must accept before installing and running Earth, however, that doesn't seem to be slowing down programmers who are eagerly creating applications. As an example, Prudential launched their Chicago real estate search application just 3 days after Google Earth was officially made available. The crew at Prudential had apparently been working on a browser plug-in so that when a user opens their browser they would get a list of properties. When Google Earth launched June 28 they saw their chance and quickly designed the modification and created the Google Earth app.