Google just released a new browser plugin that lets users experience Google Earth from directly inside a webpage. The new plugin is accompanied by an API that web developers can use to easily incorporate Google Earth into their applications, just like what they did with Google Maps a long time ago.
The downside is that nobody has the plugin yet, so any representation of Earth you put on your website is instead displayed as a box telling your users to install the plugin (but this is a common and acceptable practice). The install is easy and fairly unintrusive -- basically a couple clicks and browser restart. In Firefox at least (I haven't tried installing on IE yet), the browser restart shouldn't be necessary (Microsoft's Live Earth does everything it needs to without one).
This version of the plugin supports the following browsers:
- IE 6.0+
- IE 7.0+
- Firefox 2.x or 2.0x (Firefox 3.0 support coming soon)
- Netscape 7.1+
- Mozilla 1.4+
- Flock 1.0+
Live Earth is a browser based application as well -- however it doesn't have an API, and the plugin only runs on IE 6 and 7, and Firefox 2. The speed of Live Earth was also extremely frustrating when I first tested it out, but it seems a lot better now.
The difference between the two is that Google's solution, from what I can tell, was developed with only embedding in mind -- there isn't a stand-alone web based Google Earth yet, but I'm sure that's coming. To the user, the embedded content is zippy and responsive, with a relatively short loading time of around 0.5 to 4 seconds -- they have certainly done this right.
To see some samples that Google created using the API, visit this page.