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.

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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)

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She's also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn't enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom's Guide, while also working on two of Future's photography print magazines Down Under.