Geoportail, the French Google Earth and run by the state cartography service, has just launched the Beta of their 3D visualization service. Rather than invent the wheel they have used the Terraexplorer software. We decided to take it for a test fly over our local mountain, the Dent de Crolles.
The Geoportail image is rendered slightly more precisely, there is none of the rounding that you get with Google Earth. Advantage, albeit slight, to the French.
Next we zoomed into the ruined barn on the bottom of the photograph.
Here the advantage is definitely with Google Earth. A more detailed, clearer image and the 3D engine is much better at this resolution.
Google Earth will also remain the favourite of anyone spying on French military installations
Here Google Earth renders top secret French missile ship la Monge in all its glory whereas Geoportail is a good deal more discreet.
On an interface level Terraexplorer is hypersensitive to any movements and is harder to pilot. The real killer for me is that this version of Terraexplorer is not open, you can’t add your own routes or waypoints, talk to a GPS or look at community waypoints and information. On this level one gets the impression that the civil servants at the IGN still just don’t get it