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Geo Enabling the Internet

May 31, 2007

This week at the Where 2.0 conference we witnessed an exciting aspect of the near-future Internet.  For the last couple of years the focus has been on ‘what’, as in what is something associated with and what kinds of meta data can be used to make that content indexable and sortable.  Now the goal becomes to add location data to content, thus enabling the geo aware web.  The map mashup, so prevalent over the last year or two, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Yeah, Second Life is cool, but what about moving around the real earth and its buildings, inside and out.  That’s the aim of Planet9’s application,‘Raygun’, which allows you to walk around in virtual cities modeled after their real namesakes and potentially interact with other people in the virtual world.  It’s currently in private Beta, but promises to be worth a look when it goes public.

Although not brand new Microsoft’s live maps are now 3d enabled directly in the browser via a plugin.  Now when you search for your hotel in San Francisco, you can zoom in, look at the building in 3d, and see what landmarks are around it.   Then head over to Google maps to see actual pictures of the area via the new ‘Street View’ functionality.      

Communities of neocartographers are helping produce the map, a wiki based map of the world .  The content is submitted by dedicated people armed with GPS units and a desire to make maps open for all to use and share.  This project was started because many countries (Great Britain specifically in this case) tightly control map data and that so desperately wants to be free or at least inexpensive.

The gap between the Internet and location-aware mobile devices is rapidly breaking down.  Check Twittervision for an example or Boost’s product created by Loopt that allows you to keep track of your friends.

Although the online mapping community is a relatively young movement overall, many of the people involved are very experienced in building amazing applications.  There are some real heavy hitters investing massive amounts of money in this endeavor.  The kinds of hardware, software, networks, and communities that are available for use on these projects have and will continue to ensure amazing products and ideas.  The next few years are going to witness amazing software that is unlike anything you’ve seen on the Internet so far.  You really don’t have to think very hard to start dreaming up amazing applications for geo-aware data and how it not only makes the Internet more interesting in general, but also enables more relevant and interactive marketing.

Joshua Brewer
Senior Software Engineer

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