2005 – The Year of the Online Digital Map

December 12, 2005 gefunden auf:



2005 – The Year of the Online Digital Map

Without a doubt, 2005 has been the year of the online digital map. The home user who has access to the internet now has a staggering array of map services to choose from.

By far the best known service is Google Maps (http://maps.google.com). Google Maps offers worldwide mapping and aerial photography at a variety of scales. Some areas (especially the US) are really well mapped while others areas are somewhat basic. Google Maps can also give you directions to your destination.

But Google isn’t the only player. Microsoft has also made a dramatic entry into online mapping. Their service was initially called Virtual Earth (http://virtualearth.msn.com/) but has now been integrated into the Microsoft Live portal (http://local.live.com/).

When there’s a choice the first thing that people want to know is which should they use. My advice is to use both – there are some substantial differences between the data offered (although the big name players are present on both, such as NAVTEQ, EarthSat and USGS mapping data). I use both and if one doesn’t have good coverage for a particular area, I give the other a go.

Online mapping is cool but there are several services that have freed maps from the web browser. Again it was Google who created the biggest buzz with the Google Earth application (http://earth.google.com/). Google Earth is a digital globe on your PC. With Google Earth you can zoom in on an area, rotate the globe, have grid lines showing or hidden, go to a particular spot, create waypoint markers and a whole lot more. This applications totally kills a number of other commercial products that were on the market, not only because it’s free but because the volume of data available to it is huge. There’s no excuse for not knowing where someplace is!

Many people think that Google Earth is a one of a kind application. This isn’t true because NASA have had a software application called World Wind (http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov). There’s no doubt that World Wind is more complicated than Google Earth and that the interface isn’t as glamorous but ones you get beyond that you discover that NASA’s World Wind offers far more in the way of data (data from a number of satellites is available along with highly detailed USGS maps).

As to which to use, again I see both as having their strong points and suggest that you download, install and build both – examine the features that each offer and see what suits you best.

There’s no doubt that 2005 has been a great year for mapping. There have always been maps on the net if you knew where to look but as soon as the big names entered the game this has raised the awareness of mapping and turned mapping from being boring academic stuff into ubercool geek material.

Looking into my crystal ball I see 2006 offering more or everything – more maps, more data, more detail. There’s a competition between the big names now for eyes on page (especially between Microsoft and Google because the more eyes on page they can get the more they make through ad revenue) and this means that they are in a features war. This is going to mean great stuff for the end user!

Stay tuned – 2006 is set to be another exciting year!


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