Google shuts down Gaia

Written by Brett Thomas

November 28, 2006 | 15:01

Tags: #gaia #google-earth

Companies: #google

Many of you are familiar with Google's mapping project, Google Earth. The software is a rather interesting way to wile away a work day (of course, nobody here would do that...ever...). However, there are definite limitations to it, many of which were fixed by the Gaia project. Now, Gaia has been shut down by a mere polite request from Google.

Gaia was an attempt to fix quite a few "issues" with Google Earth. First of all, Google's software was not open-source, whereas Gaia was. Second, Google's subscription model (for use with GPS devices) only allowed for Windows machines. Anyone hoping to run the GPS-enabled version of Google Earth that ran Linux, MacOS, FreeBSD, or other operating systems was simply out of luck.

Of course, Gaia was not in any way sanctioned by Google, and was developed by reverse-engineering the software. And so the authors of the project received a very polite request from Michael Jones, head of Google Earth, requesting that the software be removed. Sadly, it all came down to simple user rights - rights that Google couldn't give to the Gaia project, even if it wanted to.

Google Earth accesses the data that it displays by renting it from other companies, who provide the imaging satellites and other technologies. These companies have imposed strict rules on how Google can provide the data, and these rules are broken by Gaia. Google Earth's license to use the data was threatened, since it provided the framework that Gaia was able to exploit.

The letter from Mr. Jones was well-accepted by the open-source community and the team of devs responsible for the Gaia project. Since the group had in no way attempted to harm the Google Earth project, Gaia has now been discontinued.

If you're curious to read the entire letter that Mr. Jones sent to the team, you can find it right on Gaia's main site. If only other companies wrote so nicely...

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