Microsoft, The Real Inventor Of Google Earth Back In The 90’s

Microsoft, The Real Inventor Of Google Earth Back In The 90’s


Microsoft assigned Tom Barclay for a very important job: to put Earth inside a database. The project was named Teraserver and it should have been the project through which Microsoft would remain the most influent internet company.

Terraserver: the first ever interactive satellite map

Google Earth’s predecessor, Terraserver was the first terabyte-sized database. It was launched by Microsoft and it was very popular back in the 90s. This app allowed users to see their house from space.

At first, it was not decided that the database would be the Earth’s database. Microsoft was only interested in creating a huge database and the first idea was to list all transactions in the history of the New York Stock Exchange, so that it could become searchable online. The idea changed when Microsoft realized that the transactions only covered half terabyte of data. The corporation wanted something bigger and more audacious.

The searchable satellite images idea was born in 1997 thanks to Hedy Rossmeisl of the Unites States Geological Survey (USGS) and Jim Gray, Microsoft computer scientist.

They thought of Terranova and decided it was the perfect timing. The end of the Cold War meant that no country was worried about terrorism and the imagery was available. Rossmaisl was in charge of coding and Barclay decided to use mosaic images which were generated automatically.

What happened with Terraserver?

Tom Barclay, its creator explains what happened to the database. According to him, Microsoft has never been a corporation oriented towards information, such as Google. Terranova had the same fate as Microsoft’s email, browser or other consumer service. Google outpaced all these services because it understood the value of information, while Microsoft was only interested in proving it is able to create such complicated software.