Google Maps on desktop now shows the Earth as a 3D globe

Google Maps

While Google has been busy adding updates to its Maps app, the search giant took its time announcing the most important one yet. 

When you open Google Maps on your desktop computer and zoom all the way out, the world now appears as a 3D globe rather than the usual flat two-dimensional map.

Adding another dimension to Maps takes care of the issue of displaying incorrect proportions in a flat view of the Earth, especially as you move further away from the equator.

No more flat Earth

The original flat depiction (or mercator projection) of the Earth distorted the size of areas in higher latitudes significantly, making regions closer to the poles look larger than they actually are in relation to land masses closer to the equator.

For instance, Greenland appears to be larger than Africa in the Mercator projection, whereas in reality it only measures 836,300 square miles compared with Africa's 11.73 million square miles.

In fact, Antartica appears to be largest continent when viewed on a mercator projection when, in fact, it ranks just fifth in area.

Google says that its three-dimensional Globe Mode fixes that problem.

However, Globe Mode is available only on desktop at the moment, although it works on any browser, thanks to the WebGL API, which renders “interactive 2D and 3D graphics within any compatible web browser without the use of plugins”.

While the change brings Maps in line with Google Earth, which always depicted the Earth in three dimensions, Flat Earthers have been quick to find fault with the update.

In an email seen by CNET, Pete Svarrior, a social media manager at the Flat Earth Society said, “From a Flat Earth point of view, this is a change from one inaccurate projection (Mercator) to another (a globe). Google Maps is a product ... [that] tries to deliver what [its] customers want to receive. Most people firmly believe that the Earth is a globe -- it's sensible business to display it as one.”

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, Sharmishta's main priority is being TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor, looking after the day-to-day functioning of the Australian, New Zealand and Singapore editions of the site, steering everything from news and reviews to ecommerce content like deals and coupon codes. While she loves reviewing cameras and lenses when she can, she's also an avid reader and has become quite the expert on ereaders and E Ink writing tablets, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about these underrated devices. Other than her duties at TechRadar, she's also the Managing Editor of the Australian edition of Digital Camera World, and writes for Tom's Guide and T3.