Photos Layer of Google Earth and Google Maps Transition with Panoramio Closure

I wrote about Panoramio switching to read-only mode in preparation for its closure, and then recently about Google’s announcement of its imminent shutdown.

The newest development is that Panoramio is completely shut down. Other users and I have noticed the Panoramio photos layer in Google Earth still shows geolocated photo icons. But clicking on them only brings up a message saying the Panoramio layer is disabled and new photos layer is “Google Maps Photos”. Panoramio photos no longer appear in Google Maps.

Google Earth new photos layer message screenshot1

Google Earth new photos layer screenshot2Clicking that button “Switch to the New Photos Layer” did not do anything for me. But I did see the Google Maps Photos checkbox under Photos in the Layers menu in the bottom-left of Google Earth. When that is checked, the map shows circular thumbnails (quite a bit larger than the previous thumbnails) of photos from Maps. I looked around a few places and noticed there were far fewer photos available in this new layer. In other places (like urban areas), many more thumbnails show as you zoom in and it’s hard to say whether there are more or less photos. website changed also, saying “Panoramio has been discontinued,” and including three frequently-asked questions.

1. What happened to my Panoramio data?
If your Panoramio profile was linked with your Google account, then all your Panoramio photos are being copied to your Google Album Archive at full resolution (this could take a few weeks). All other data has been permanently deleted.

2. Will my Panoramio photos continue to appear in Google Earth and Google Maps?
If your Panoramio photos were appearing in Google Maps with the name of your Google Account, then they will continue to appear along with their original view counts. If they were only attributed to your Panoramio username, they will no longer appear. You can view and manage photos by signing in to Google Maps and accessing the Contributions screen from the main menu.

So not all, or maybe none, of the Panoramio photos have been copied yet. This could explain why the photos layer has so few photos currently. They only show those uploaded to Maps. But we have no idea how many or what percentage of Panoramio users have linked their accounts to enable this migration. The photos of Panoramio users that have not done this are just gone. It was up to those people to do what they will. They own their photos after all.


3. Is there any way to keep posting photos to Google Earth and Google Maps?
Yes – to keep adding photos to Google Maps and engage with a growing community of photographers, join the Local Guides program. You can earn points and unlock rewards for photos submitted with a Google account when they are linked to a point of interest or business.

Questions remain regarding the new photos layer.

I also have concerns about what is missing from the new process.

  • Where are the community and social functions? Local Guides Connect is neat, but it is detached from the actual photos. I’d like to post a comment to tell someone how awesome their photo is. I thought this could be doable with Google+.
  • How can I learn more about a photographer? How can photographers get some recognition for their work filling great geolocated photos into the map? As it is now, they/we aren’t much better than anonymous Google-photo-bots.

Right now I can say that the quality of photos in the new layer, at least regarding relevancy to the map and location, is probably better than I expected (not too many food photos). But it is still not as good as Panoramio. Lots of photos are included that are not relevant. And there are far less photos appearing in areas that aren’t urban (at least until Panoramio photos are copied). This makes sense as the Google’s focus with Maps and Local Guides is ultimately fleshing out business listings. But I believe they should do what’s needed to improve things for non-urban areas. People will use Maps and Earth more if they are better tools, whether they are used to look at businesses in town or scenery in undeveloped areas.

Lots of people from Panoramio are negative towards Google’s new program. That has been apparent in Panoramio’s web forum, and from the vocal few users in Local Guides Connect. For me, I actually recommend joining the new program. This is because I hope that the fantastic people that made Panoramio great can help shape it and improve it so it might work as well as Panoramio did as a geolocated photos resource and community. Right now I think it needs help in that department. Sign up to Local Guides and share your opinion in the Local Guides Connect forums like I have.

Google Earth new photos layer screenshot4a Google Earth new photos layer screenshot5a

2 thoughts on “Photos Layer of Google Earth and Google Maps Transition with Panoramio Closure

  1. Lorenzo Piazzi says:

    Dear Hikingmike
    I read your comments about Panoramio and Google Maps.
    After the january 28,2018 I had some problems with visualization in GM Photos of ex Panoramio pics on pc with browser.
    I opened this case:
    Could you say me, if you have ex Panoramio pics trasferred in GM, if you the same problem?
    Thank you very much for all

    • Hi Lorenzo, thanks for reading here. It does look like my Panoramio pictures transferred to Google Maps because I can see them in My Contributions when logged into that account. One strange thing – I thought the photos were supposed to show in Google Album Archive also, but I don’t see them there. But, specifically about your question, yes I see the same problem that you do. The photo is just black when I try to click on one from the left sidebar. I will post in your thread at Local Guides Connect also.

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