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Senior Google Earth programmer departs

Wes Thierry, who for six years worked on the Google Earth software package that runs on people's PCs, leaves to join a virtual reality company.

Update 10:12 a.m. PDT: I changed the headline; Thierry was a long-time, senior programmer but said he wasn't high-ranking.

The programmer who for years helped develop the Google Earth software package has left the search and advertising company.

"I've cut the Google ship loose. Yesterday was my last day at Google," said Wes Thierry on his blog on Thursday. Thierry was a senior engineer for the client software portion of Google Earth, which also taps into data stored on Google servers.

Thierry worked on the project for six years, first at Keyhole then at Google after it acquired the satellite mapping firm in 2004, and he said by e-mail that he's looking for something new.

"I have been working on the same product for quite a while now. I liked working for a smaller company in the early days, and even at Google in the Early days. The team has become very large, and I left because I just need a change. I will always have fond memories of Google, but it just isn't the same company it was a few years ago," he said. Up next: some vacation in Europe then work for a virtual reality company.

In his blog post, Thierry said there were rough times just before he joined Keyhole, with employees not getting paid. But the Iraq war gave the company some attention through CNN's use of Keyhole products. But the CIA was the real financial lifeline in the early days, he said, though only referring to the Central Intelligence Agency by its nickname.

"Keyhole was always scrambling to please our biggest customer, the Agency, which used our cool interface to view their own top-secret data," he said. "Even today, the Agency is a large customer of Google's, but their importance and influence on day-to-day development has waned since their money is no longer a significant part of Google's income."