The launch of Google Maps last February, and Google Earth and MSN Virtual Earth more recently, have brought cyberspace closer to Earth and ordinary people closer to the age-old science of cartography. Though the internet map revolution has been brewing for years, as Wade Roush reports in Technology Review, this year has been marked by burgeoning innovation.
Take, for example, the Google Maps 'mash-ups' programmers have been scripting to augment maps with useful information. There are mash-ups that help people navigate the roads, like one that locates cheap gas in a driver's area and another that monitors traffic conditions. Others, like chigagocrime.org, help people map safe routes. Several other new mapping tools are ideal for travelers. Geobloggers.com tracks and plots Flickr photos that have been embedded with geotags (information about geographic coordinates) on a Google map. Another boon for information junkies and world travelers is placeopedia.com, which uses Wikipedia articles to inject a wealth of information into the Google Maps interface.
While these new innovations haven't yet transformed average citizens into full-blown cartographers, they have reinvented map-making as an increasingly interactive exercise. As Roush writes, '[N]avigating both the Web and the real geography around us is about to become a much richer experience.'
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