July 23, 2010

Keyhole Markup Language (KML)

Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is an XML-based language schema for expressing geographic annotation and visualization on existing or future Web-based, two-dimensional maps and three-dimensional Earth browsers. KML was developed for use with Google Earth, which was originally named Keyhole Earth Viewer. It was created by Keyhole, Inc, which was acquired by Google in 2004. The name "Keyhole" is an homage to the KH reconnaissance satellites, the original eye-in-the-sky military reconnaissance system first launched in 1976. KML is an international standard of the Open Geospatial Consortium.
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Structure

The KML file specifies a set of features (placemarks, images, polygons, 3D models, textual descriptions, etc.) for display in Google Earth, Maps and Mobile, or any other 3D earth browser (geobrowser) implementing the KML encoding. Each place always has a longitude and a latitude. Other data can make the view more specific, such as tilt, heading, altitude, which together define a "camera view". KML shares some of the same structural grammar as GML. Some KML information cannot be viewed in Google Maps or Mobile.

KML files are very often distributed in KMZ files, which are zipped files with a .kmz extension. The contents of a KMZ file are a single root KML document (notionally "doc.kml") and optionally any overlays, images, icons, and models referenced in the KML including network-linked KML files. The root KML document is typically a file named "doc.kml" at the root level but the first .kml file in the KMZ file is the one selected in Google Earth regardless of its name. By convention the root KML document is at root level and referenced files are in subdirectories (e.g. images for overlay images), but this is not required.

Geodetic reference systems in KML

For its reference system, KML uses 3D geographic coordinates: longitude, latitude and altitude, in that order. The longitude, latitude components are as defined by the World Geodetic System of 1984 (WGS84). The vertical component (altitude) is measured from the WGS84 EGM96 Geoid vertical datum. If altitude is omitted from a coordinate string, e.g. (-122.917, 49.2623) then the default value of 0 (approximately sea level) is assumed for the altitude component, i.e. (-122.917, 49.2623, 0) is assumed. A formal definition of the coordinate reference system (encoded as GML) used by KML is contained in the OGC KML 2.2 Specification. This definition references well-known EPSG CRS components.

OGC standard process

The KML 2.2 specification was submitted to the Open Geospatial Consortium to assure its status as an open standard for all geobrowsers. In November 2007 a new KML 2.2 Standards Working Group was established within OGC to formalize KML 2.2 as an OGC standard. Comments were sought on the proposed standard until January 4, 2008, and it became an official OGC standard on April 14, 2008.

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