Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Personal Journey On Google Earth Part 1

Well it's done. I've cut the Google ship loose. Yesterday was my last day at Google. I gave them four years of my life, and it all started about six years ago at a small company named Keyhole, at that time, the Google Earth ancestor was known as Earthviewer 3D...

On Saint Patricks day in 2003 I began work at a small company of about 28 people in Mountain View. We were working on this cool little application that allowed people to manipulate a 3D globe and zoom down to highly detailed overhead views. Too bad there were only a handful of cities with data worth viewing.

I always like to joke that when I started at Keyhole, their financial situation began to improve. The company had just come out of some hard times where people had gone without his/her paychecks because there was no money to pay them with. In reality, the truth was that the war had just started in Iraq, and "Shock and Awe" was all over the news. Our little product started to get some attention on the web and in the news due to CNN using it constantly to report on the war. CNN was a paying customer, "WOO-HOO!!! Paychecks won't bounce", I thought to myself.

Keyhole was always scrambling to please our biggest customer, the Agency, which used our cool interface to view their own top secret data. Even today, the Agency is a large customer of Google's, but their importance and influence on day to day development has wained since their money is no longer a significant part of Google's income.

As a software engineer, we always were prepared to quickly change direction and help deal with whatever issues the Agency may have had. This was sometimes problematic, since the computers running the program and experiencing the issues were often in "secure" areas. This meant that they were contained in rooms with no outside telephone lines and shielded from cell phone signals. A tech trying to resolve their issues would have to leave the secure area, talk to one of our engineers or support people, go back and try something, yadda yadda yadda.... You can see how issues sometimes took a while to resolve......

The Agency kept keyhole in business, a kind of lifeline, but we were still looking for something more. Keyhole continued on for a while in that same state, evolving and adding more features. We matured to the point where we looked more like a legitimate Windows application and decided to ditch the mickey mouse type interface for a more professional look. Due to a lawsuit over the naming of the application we had to change the name of our product.

Earthviewer 3D became known to the world as Keyhole Pro (NV and LT for the consumer World).

Since this is my first day without an obligation to go to work I will finish this little story later.


Andy said...

Interesting story! As I read, I really felt like I was living it.

Amio Cajander said...

Best Wishes in this new "Era" out of Google !!!

And thank you for sharing your inside view. It is very interesting from a "normal user" point of view how things evolved.

Juzer Burhani said...

hi Wes,
that was a really nice story. i ll be waiting for the next part..
by the way i am using google earth since it was the great Keyhole. i loved it from the very first day i met it.. Good Job man.