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Thursday, November 03, 2005

While roaming the floor of the GEOINT conference, I stopped at the FBIS (Foreign Broadcast Information Service; booth. "And what do you do," I asked. "We make maps," was the reply. "Oh," I said, "I’m not familiar with your agency, and who do you make them for." "We make them for all government agencies," was the terse reply. "Oh," I said, "And why would they come to you and not the USGS." Suffice to say the answer was even more terse and not very helpful. FBIS is the map services center of the CIA. Don’t bother going to the website because you can’t login unless you are a government agency or customer thereof. The material at the FBIS booth was most low level political maps, some showing topographic features but suffice to say that these were not the most helpful people and were not very knowledgeable about the agency’s mission. I suggest they may want to staff the booth with someone a little more helpful next time. When I sent an email to the agency to get permission for the website, I was referred to, which is supported by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) as well. My entire conversation with the FBIS booth staff reminded me of conversations I had when I taught remote sensing workshops at the USGS and when we asked certain attendees about their affiliation, their reply was sometimes a mumbled, "Well, I work for the government." Right.

by Joe Francica on 11/03 at 09:40 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Update: 11/3 12:00: From the press release: “Easy to implement solutions that provide built-in geocoding support and compatibility with GeoRSS (RSS feeds with location information). “

Also, the PR was not well edited. This is included in the released version I read: “Maps offering is enhanced using Macromedia Flex, part of the Macromedia Flash Platform, and is now available as an opt-in public beta on We use the url in the first graph. “

Also, its worth noting that Microsoft’s Scoble says that Yahoo’s pretty maps are doomed. He says Virtual Earth is too. Why? “That it’s not about maps, it’s about the advertising platform that Google has built. It’s not about prettiness, it’s about who has the most user generated content (I still hate that term). ” If you want to understand why it’s not about maps, read this!

Yahoo doesn’t want Google to get all the buzz (and users) so yesterday it unveiled its latest update. A quick tour is here. The new implementation supports AJAX and Flash. The end user offering includes:

-Panning like Google (no waiting)
-Larger Maps
-Integrated search results
-Default geography, which can be used for search
-More forms for searching a location and creating a route
-Drop down of past addresses (can also access Yahoo address book, if you have one)
-Multipoint directions (using icons on screen, not keying addresses)
-Interactive “locator map” with integrated scale slider
-URL reflects all info in map, making it easy to share
-Menu picks for e-mailing map, sending to phone and adding traffic information
Link to “custom maps” – so users can see what developers are doing

Jeremy Kreitler senior product manager explains that Yahoo wants to limit how much typing users need to do.

There are updates for the API as well:

-Developers can use a syndication API to put maps on their own site and add their own data on top. Developers can use Flash or Ajax formats, and at least some of the source code is open, allowing new tools to be built.

-New tools include access to geocoding, map calls and local search.

- There’s also an extension to the Simple Publishing API offered when the API lauched in June. A free downloadable “Microsoft Excel plug-in creates a Web page with content from a developer’s Excel spreadsheet onto a Yahoo Map to create a map mash-up without requiring any programming.”

Kreitler says these are the same pieces Yahoo uses to build its own public offering and allows developers to produce a wider range of offerings.

I’m impressed. The interface is slick and the version I looked at via Flash was very pretty. The two things that will bring me back are the traffic and the multipoint routing. I’ll be curious to hear what developers think and how “regular folks” will use the Excel tool. Greg Sterling, an analyst at The Kelsey Group, says that allowing developers to host their own maps may jumpstart mashup creation, a place where Google still leads.

by Adena Schutzberg on 11/03 at 07:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Reader Larry pointed me to WW2D, a 2D, open source, free viewer based on Java and OpenGL technologies. It runs on “any system for which Java VM and JOGL library exist (Windows/Linux/Mac OSX).” Currently, its server includes data from Blue Marble Next Generation (500 m/pixel), LandSat7 (15 m/pixel), USGS Topo Maps, USGS Digital Ortho imagery, USGS Urban Area imagery. And, it’s possible to post your own data and create add-ons to the browser.

There’s a nice table comparing it to World Wind, Google Earth/Local, MSN Virtual Earth, but alas not ArcGIS Explorer (grin). The big one, and I hear this a lot since I circulate in education/academic circles, is the cross platform support. That will kill some of the other players in the education space, my friends tell me.

Who’s behind this effort? Vitaliy Pronkin from Moscow, Russia.

by Adena Schutzberg on 11/03 at 07:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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