Turning Earth observation (EO) data consistently and systematically into valuable global information layers is an ongoing challenge for the EO community. Recently, the term ‘big Earth data emerged to describe massive EO datasets that confronts analysts and their traditional workflows with a range of challenges. We argue that the altered circumstances must be actively intercepted by an evolution of EO to revolutionise their application in various domains. The disruptive element is that analysts and end-users increasingly rely on Web-based workflows. In this contribution we study selected systems and portals, put them in the context of challenges and opportunities and highlight selected shortcomings and possible future developments that we consider relevant for the imminent uptake of big Earth data.