What happened to Google earth old panoramio photos that users uploaded?3 Recommended Answers
We have been waiting to post again until we were able to add the denser, smaller photo icons to the Earth Pro photos layer, but we have not accomplished that yet (though we are close). We did add full resolution photos, which was a highly requested feature, and I can assure you that we are still working on the smaller, denser photo icons and care very much about it. More importantly, we're working hard to preserve as many of the tens of millions of Panoramio photos as possible and are continuing to spend time migrating as many photos as we can given the limitations mentioned in the previous posts..
We absolutely understand and appreciate your passion on this topic. We are listening. We are currently addressing the issue along with exploring ways to improve photo location accuracy, improve photo relevancy, and make it easier to get your photos into Earth.
Again, there are no specific timelines on the initiatives and that is not an indication of our lack of understanding of their importance. We hope that you can remain both patient, engaged, and respectful while we continue to develop the photos layer.
- The Google Earth team
Thank you so much for being receptive to our message and for giving us additional feedback. We want to take some more time to address some of your replies and to make some clarifications that we hope will be helpful:
Clarifying what suggestions we are considering
Apologies for the poor wording which may have caused some confusion. We are not considering bringing the original Panoramio layer back (see below). We wanted to acknowledge that as a common request, but unfortunately there is no way back at this point.
Also, we are not actively working on an image carousel for the Photos layer in Earth Pro for Desktop (see below), but we are willing to revisit this decision and will report back if plans change.
Further clarification: We can’t bring back the Panoramio layer
There’s no way to bring back the original Panoramio layer. The Earth database we use to display the points on the map contains the locations of the original Panoramio photos and just a reference to the original photo URLs. However, that database is separate from the server that hosted the Panoramio images themselves. That server has been taken down, so those URLs aren’t valid anymore. This is why we put the notification message in all the balloons and offered people a way to turn on the new Google Maps Photos layer.
We have to wait until the eligible Panoramio photos are migrated into the new catalog (and hosted under their new URLs) before we can include them in the new Photos layer.
More on the image carousel
Creating an image carousel for the new photos layer in desktop Earth presents a number of non-obvious technical challenges that we didn’t face with the original Panoramio layer. We don’t face these challenges in the new version of Google Earth for Chrome/iOS/Android, which is why we have a carousel on the Photos layer there; check it out and let us know what you think. We’ll continue to investigate what would be required to put one in Desktop Earth and let you know if our plans change.
Accurate placement of photos and showing real GPS locations if available
The majority of the new (non-Panoramio) photos uploaded via Google Maps and Local Guides do not have true coordinates/GPS coordinates associated with them in our database. During upload, the contributor decides to which point-of-interest (POI) it should be snapped. Even if the owner has enabled the saving of locations in photos on their phone (e.g. the setting on Android), they didn’t consent to showing this accurate location during the upload process. With our commitment to data privacy we don’t want to show the photo at that location without their explicit permission.
For example: Imagine that you buy a birthday cake from the Happy Cake Bakery, take it home and take a picture of it in your kitchen that includes a GPS location. You then upload it to Google Maps and manually associate it with the bakery’s business listing. If we were to start automatically showing that photo at its actual GPS location without asking permission, we would have shown the world where you live.
For those Panoramio photos eligible for migration, once they are processed they will appear at their original, non-snapped locations where the owner publicly had posted it.
To get newly contributed photos accurately placed on the map (vs. snapping to POIs), we would need new upload options to be added to Google Maps and Local Guides. As some of you have noted, the Street View app for Android allows you to upload a Panoramio to an exact /accurate location. Unfortunately, that app doesn’t allow you to upload flat images, just panos. We are discussing/evaluating what it would take to allow uploads of accurately placed photos in these other apps, or Earth itself, in the future. No promises, but it’s something the Earth team really cares about too as it’s a key use-case for many of you.
Preserving all the images
We on the Earth team agree that the loss of millions of accurately geotagged photos not associated with a G+ profile is a great loss for our users. We’re talking with the Panoramio migration team to better understand what options were considered, and if there is any recourse we’ll report back.
Unfortunately, we can’t simply create a bulk G+ account (e.g. “Panoramio Archive” per one suggestion) to own all the other un-migratable photos. The owners of these photos should retain control over their own images, and get credit for them. Some of you have mentioned that Panoramio users uploaded under Creative Commons rights. We don’t have details on that, but we’ll look into it.
Clarification on timing of removal of Panoramio Icons
The original Panoramio layer was on by default for all Earth users. Because the new Photos layer is so different, instead of turn it on my default, we wanted to give active Panoramio layer users the choice to switch. This is why we have that announcement message in all the Panoramio layer balloons; we wanted to provide a window of opportunity for people to switch.
Enough time has passed that most active Panoramio layer users have seen the message and made their choice, so we are soon going to remove the old Panoramio layer entirely. We’ll do this at the same time that we add/offer the new small-icon version of the new Photos layer, as described in the last post.
Again, thank you for your understanding while we work together to make the photos experience in Google Earth great for everyone. Please stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates on the migration process, icon options, high-res photo access, and properly geo-tagged photos.
- The Google Earth team
We are still working to migrate the photos of those Panoramio users who linked to their Google+ profiles. We are detangling some oversights in the transfer tool’s original design and need to take our time in order to do it right. This has taken far longer than originally expected, so we sincerely appreciate your patience.
Once the migration is complete, you should see an improvement in the coverage and availability of photos in Earth, especially in out-of-the-way places. More on that below.
Changes per your feedback
In the meantime, the Earth team has started work on a few other changes with the goal of improving the usability of the layer per your feedback:
1) Smaller icons - Per feedback about the large, circular thumbnail icons obscuring Earth’s satellite imagery, we’re working on the option to switch to smaller, more Panoramio-like icons.
2) Denser icons - If you choose these smaller icons we’ll also show more photos at each zoom level, more like the original Panoramio layer. Note that until the migration is complete, coverage in remote areas won’t change and most photos will still be snapped to points-of-interest.
3) Links to high-res photos - Per your requests, we’re adding a link to higher-resolution versions of the photos, as was available in the original Panoramio layer.
We hope to launch these changes within about two weeks; we’ll report back as we get specifics.
Suggestions we’re considering
We are not currently working on some of the other common suggestions, but wanted to acknowledge them and let you know that we are taking them into consideration:
1) Image carousel - The original Panoramio layer had an image carousel for flipping through nearby photos and larger map icons were used to represent clusters of photos. At this time we are not considering these possibilities for Earth Pro desktop, but please check out the “new”, non-Pro/desktop version of Google Earth for Chrome, iOS and Android. It also has a Photos layer with an image carousel of nearby photos.
2) Re-enabling the old Panoramio layer - Some folks have asked that we just restore the original Panoramio layer, as it’s still listed in the Layers panel. Although the placemark icons can still be shown on the map, the Panoramio site that hosted the actual photos has been taken down so the original pop-up balloons would show up empty if re-enabled.
We’ll be removing the original Panoramio layer when we launch the option to switch between the thumbnail and small icons (per #1 above).
Placing photos where they were actually taken
Panoramio was all about sharing what our world looks like by placing accurately geotagged photos on the map. Quite justly, much of your feedback is about how photos are now snapped to points-of-interest, landmarks, and businesses instead of where they were actually taken.
This is because the photo upload tools in Google Maps and Local Guides were specifically designed for people to associate photos with specific, named places. This works really well for typical Google Maps usage where you want to search for a place and see relevant photos. However, it’s not good at all for the Google Earth users browsing the globe to see accurately placed photos, especially those places less traveled.
As eligible Panoramio photos are migrated you should see more accurately-placed photos appear. We’re also talking to the Google Maps photos team in hopes of favoring the display of these photos instead of their snapped-to-place ones in our layer. The Earth team is also continuing to explore ways that properly/accurately geolocated photos might be added to Earth in the future, now that Panoramio has shut down.
We know that some photos uploaded via Google Maps/Local Guides are severely or intentionally misplaced and distract from the experience in Earth. Please report them via the feedback link in the balloons so we can remove them.
Why won’t all the Panoramio photos be migrated?
Many of you are concerned about the loss of the incredible, global Panoramio dataset and have asked why all of the photos can’t be preserved, the simple answer is that we are respecting the privacy and ownership of the original photographers.
We are migrating the photos of those Panoramio users who agreed to link to their Google+ accounts and share their photos with Google Maps. This allows us to attribute their photos using the G+ profile name they chose for making posts. This link is important because we can’t preserve the old Panoramio nicknames/pseudonyms and don’t want to unexpectedly expose people’s real names in the photo credits.
Thank you all so much for your constructive feedback. We greatly appreciate your passion and patience as we work together to build the best photos experience in Google Earth.
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