More and more advanced desktop technologies are being ported to the browser platform and ultimately the barrier between the two will disappear. RIA (Rich Internet Application) frameworks like Flash and Silverlight, online application platforms, like Facebook and OpenSocial and enabling technologies like AJAX and Google Gear started to deliver both the smooth transition between the online and offline environment - i.e. applications can work both connected to and disconnected of the Net - and improvements in speed, performance and user experience.
Google released an update of the mapping API in June, and the Maps API now includes support for browser based 3D Google Earth maps. This is a product which was even amazing as a desktop application when it was first introduced by Keyhole a few years ago and now the core functionality is ported to the browser. While the Microsoft Virtual Earth technology had similar browser-based, 3D maps for a while, due to the popularity of Google Earth and the KML standard, Google's move is quite significant. This is their first release and it is plug-in based, i.e., the user has to download a small browser extension before this feature is available for them. The current Google Earth API features seem to focus on core navigation and KML integration. One can of course expect, that eventually all of the Google "virtual world" products (Maps, the 3D Google Earth, their recently acquire Lively virtual world platform, Google Street View etc.) will all merge. Imagine being able to start with Google Earth and once zoomed into the street level, being able to smoothly switch to Street View which could show Google ScetchUp architectures and Lively virtual world content. I am not sure how far it is but it's coming within a year or two for sure.
The property websites created with RealBird now provide embedded Google Earth. The feature requires a plug-in to be downloaded and installed by your visitors, but it is designed in a way, that it is transparent to all of those users who do not have it yet installed or do not wish to download the plug-in.
For an example, see Ryan Jenkins listing below.Click the screenshot to see it live.
-- Zoltan Szendro