Virtual Globes are well into their first generation, providing increasingly rich and beautiful visualization of more types and quantities of information. However, they are still mostly single and proprietary programs, akin to a web browser whose content and functionality are controlled and constrained largely by the browser’s manufacturer. Today Google and Microsoft determine what we can and cannot see and do in these programs.
NASA World Wind (.NET) started out in nearly the same mode, a single program with limited functionality and information content on a single platform. But as the possibilities of virtual globes became more apparent, we found that while enabling a new class of information visualization, we were also getting in the way. Many users want to provide World Wind functionality and information in their programs, not ours. They want it in their web pages. They want to include their own features. WorldWind therefore changed its mission: from providing a single information browser to enabling a whole class of 3D geospatial applications on multiple platforms, thanks to Java.
World Wind Java is NASA open source software. Anyone can readily use it and freely extend it to serve any interest. Imagery and other information provided by the World Wind Java servers is also free and unencumbered, including the server technology to deliver geospatial data. World Wind developers can therefore provide exclusive and custom solutions based on user needs.
Managed NASA Learning Technologies where World Wind was born and development of other open source projects. World Wind is NASA’s most successful software program measured in public involvement, government and public use, and number of downloads (over 10 million).
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