Interesting talk by Jack Dangermond and colleague at Where 2.0 discussing their soon to be released web service: ArcGIS.com.
Background: The reception from the crowd is polite rather than 'stoked' which isn't surprising, this is a collection of neo-geographers (web based maps people) watching a talk from the major player of
paleo-geography* desktop GIS.
I think its fair to say that ESRI (Jack's company) has failed to capitalize on the virtual globe or slippy maps (e.g. Google Maps ) market over the last 5 years and now they're playing catch up. Jack's statement that the distinction between neo-geography and GIS was disappearing was interesting, pretty much everything they demoed I'd classify as neo-geography rather than GIS - it was all user side features rather than producer side.
Interesting Features: There were a number of interesting features to the web service shown:
- Easy to search for maps from providers (Tree maps from Washington city)
- Easy to mash-up maps and create a new map (Tree maps and a chosen base map)
- Easy to share your map with a group or with the world
- Easy to add annotations to public services (here is a pot hole, please mend it Mr Government)
- Automatic integration with mobile devices (currently only iPhone)
- Presentation mode (earthquakes and aftershocks in Chile)
All the listed features are currently available on Google Maps and Google Earth. Google My Maps does 1 and 3, customisations of Google Maps do 4 and 5 while Google Earth does 2, 5 and 6. The possible strength of ArcGIS.com is that all these features come in one application. However, the devil is in the usability detail, I'll have to wait for the release to see if they have made it usable enough for the public, usability is a key reason why Google Earth/Maps have flourished so far, if ESRI haven't cracked this issue then I think the service isn't going to fly.
*edited 9th Apr: I didn't mean this to be disparaging just as the opposite of neo-geography