World Wind is a free, open source API for a virtual globe. Written in Java so as to be cross-platform and easy-to-use, World Wind allows developers to quickly and easily create interactive visualizations of 3D globe, map and geographical information.
Organizations across the world use World Wind to monitor weather patterns, visualize cities and terrain, track the movement of planes, vehicles and ships, analyze geospatial data, and educate people about the Earth.
Because World Wind is completely open source, extending the API is simple and easy to do, creating a powerful platform for giving any application the means to express, manipulate and analyze spatial data. World Wind technology can be incorporated into Windows, Mac and Linux applications, web pages and web applications, and soon, mobile applications as well.
Curated by NASA, work on World Wind began in 2002, released under the NASA Open Source Agreement (NOSA). The project was ported to Java in 2006, and in November 2009 was awarded NASA Software of the Year. Since then it has developed a global community of users, from government, education, the non-profit sector, as well as private industry.
World Wind is different from a 3D globe like Google Earth because it is not a completed application targeted at end users. Instead, it is an SDK (software development kit) that software engineers can use to build their own applications. World Wind provides a geographic rendering engine for powering a wide range of projects, from satellite tracking systems to flight simulators.
With World Wind taking care of the hard work of visualizing geographic data (generating terrain from elevation models, selecting and displaying images from imagery servers, etc), software engineers are free to focus on the solving the problems specific to their own domains and quickly building whatever geospatial applications they choose.