The day Google's Earth stood still

Web surfers seeking Google's latest whiz-bang tool--a 3D map of the Earth, made up of satellite images that could be explored down to the scale of individual city blocks--found something closer to an eclipse on Wednesday afternoon. Instead of providing the quick software download to get the service running, the search site offered an apology, saying it wasn't taking any new users for now.

"As you know, Google Earth is in beta, and we're still building out our ability to take on new users," the site read. "We're making good progress, and expect to be able to accept new downloads shortly, so we recommend you check back daily."

A Google spokeswoman amplified slightly, saying the company had planned in advance to limit the number of software downloads, in order to "provide users with an optimal download experience." That number had been reached, but the company expects to start downloads again soon, she said.

Google had halted downloads of popular beta programs in the past, most notably after the release of its Google Accelerator. Some privacy advocates had criticized that software for exposing Web pages visited by other surfers, but Google attributed that interruption to capacity issues as well.

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    John Borland
    covers the intersection of digital entertainment and broadband.
     

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