When you open Google Earth, there's no guide that suggests you where to go. You only have a search box and an entire planet to discover.
In an interesting paper titled "Google's Geospatial Organizing Principle" [PDF], Michael Jones from Google describes the philosophy behind Google Earth and Google Maps, two products that try to find the answer to an important question: "where?".
Google Earth blog —Whitehead saw education as a cyclical process of stages - romance, precision, and generalization - with a reverent emphasis on romance, the emotional involvement on the part of the learner that initiates rewarding educational experiences. Just as children play with building blocks in simple wonder for years before noting patterns in their gravity- and friction-driven behavior and decades before learning an engineers appreciation for stress and strain, Whiteheads romance is the play and wonder in our initial steps toward precisions deeper understanding and generalizations broader insights.
Leveraging the role in learning played by interest and curiosity, our user experience is meant to enhance the romance of unguided personal exploration, thereby enticing users toward a journey of understanding.
Our ultimate expression of the roles of romance and context in answering where? is Google Earth, a network-based browser for searching and displaying information in situ. It lets users navigate a geospatial Web of places in a planetary application metaphor with where and when as the organizing principles.
The vision for Google Earth inverts the roles of Web browser as application and map as content, resulting in an experience where the planet itself is the browser. Three-dimensional navigation lets users fly and swoop down to the Earth, where they search by looking, clicking, and typing. (...)
Our geospatial products create an information landscape spanning global and human scales using visual context, direct manipulation, and Alfred North Whitehead's insights to advance Google's mission. We trust the sense of place to entice romance, facilitate precision, and encourage generalization as users search and explore our maps and globes.Google, Google Earth, Google Maps