I am currently working to develop a web-based mapping application. A lot of the mapping tools such as google maps are 2d imagery. I know that google earth has a 3d browser plugin, but a requirement of this project as that I need to be able to host my own map server (I know I can with Google Earth, but the enterprise edition is pricey).

Are there any good alternatives to a 3d mapping engine for the browser (I've looked into using worldwind for the browser, but that only supports applets for the web)?


You can have a look at WebGLEarth.

WebGL Earth is an open source software enabling visualization of maps, satellite imagery and aerial photography on top of a virtual terrain. You can use the online globe together with your own data in any browser on any platform including mobile devices. The project is sustained through the support and cooperation of the developer community.

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NASA Worldwind has a JAVA SDK with a browser plugin. There are various other 3D globe projects - but most do not have a browser plugin, hence why I only mention this one.

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  • we're using Worldwind for our desktop application. The worldwind plugin is a java applet I believe, which will pose some security issues (requiring applets to be signed, etc) in our environment. – Jeff Storey Apr 20 '12 at 20:46
  • Any plugin (even Google Earth) will pose some security issues. Your other option is to modify a Flash based one, like this one from Anselm Hook hook.org Source Code for that is available here: code.google.com/p/meadanglobe/source/checkout but it has not been maintained in the past 4 years... – Ragi Yaser Burhum Apr 21 '12 at 0:37
  • True on the security issues. Worldwind's "plugin" is really just a java applet though, which is a little clunky, but maybe as just a small component of the site it can work. – Jeff Storey Apr 21 '12 at 20:21

Thematic Mapping Engine API

"The goal of this site is to investigate and show how geobrowsers can be used for thematic mapping."**


Uses Google Earth - you can use the EARTH MODE in the Web browser


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  • Thematic mapping looks interesting. Google Earth is really similar to what I'm looking for, except we need to be able to host our own map server with custom imagery. – Jeff Storey Apr 20 '12 at 21:06

you can check ReadyMap which is an excellent webgl technology. There is an information about your interest in this link.

i hope it helps you.

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  • Thanks, this looks like an interesting project. I'll give it a try. – Jeff Storey Apr 22 '12 at 14:06

I know that google earth has a 3d browser plugin, but a requirement of this project as that I need to be able to host my own map server

The Google Earth API is an excellent API for viewing the 3rd dimension in the browser, and you know its also a futureproof option to go with.

If you use a Mapserver that supports outputting the KML format...

...then you should be able to consume the KML natively within the Google Earth API.

enter image description here

I have not tried, but for ArcGIS Server, you might find a way to pull in services via this Google Maps API?

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  • I think though to be able to use google earth with my own server, I still need a google earth appliance to create my own globe (it's part of the google earth enterprise package) which is fairly expensive. – Jeff Storey Apr 22 '12 at 14:04
  • @JeffStorey I don't know about licensing, but from a purely technical perspective you can use the Google Earth Plugin with overlay-base-mapping (on top of the google stuff) served by GeoServer or any of them listed here. I did it for my Masters project and it worked fine. I think GeoServer can do some sort of SuperOverlay KML stuff for Google Earth. – GIS-Jonathan Apr 23 '12 at 9:16
  • Jonathan, you still needed a public google server though to get the base globe, is that correct? We will be running on an internal network without outside internet access – Jeff Storey Apr 24 '12 at 2:39

This is a late answer, but you can try the new pure Javascript 3D Earth API at AtomJump.com, which runs in any browser from IE7+ up to Android/iPad/iPhone. There is no need for WebGL either, so it is production ready.

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