Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 08:52:34
From: Kate Lance <[hidden email]>
To: SDI-legal-econ <[hidden email]>
Subject: [GSDI Legal Econ] Marrying Maps to Data for a New Web
fyi..... article on page C1 of The New York Times today.
.... nice to see 'geo' mentioned in mainstream press.....
Marrying Maps to Data for a New Web Service
By John Markoff
SAN FRANCISCO, July 14 - In 1991, David Gelernter, a computer scientist
at Yale, proposed using software to create a computer simulation of the
physical world, making it possible to map everything from traffic flow
and building layouts to sales and currency data on a computer
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Mr. Gelernter's idea came a step closer to reality in the last few weeks
when both Google and Yahoo published documentation making it
significantly easier for programmers to link virtually any kind of
Internet data to Web-based maps and, in Google's case, satellite
Since the Google and Yahoo tools were released, their uses have been
demonstrated in dozens of ways by hobbyists and companies, including an
annotated map guide to the California wineries and restaurants that
appeared in the movie "Sideways" and instant maps showing the
locations of the recent bombing attacks in London.
Later this summer, Microsoft plans to introduce a competing service,
Virtual Earth, with software that programmers will be able to use in
similarly creative ways.
So far the uses have been noncommercial. But Yahoo, Google and Microsoft
are creating the services with the expectation that they will become a
focal point in one of the next significant growth areas in Internet
advertising: contextual advertisements tied to specific locations. Such
ads would be embedded in maps generated by a search query or run
While the companies have not yet disclosed how they intend to profit, one
likely model is that the programming tools would be licensed on the basis
of a revenue split from the advertising generated by use of the
"There are billions of dollars of commerce down the road," said
Chris Churchill, chief executive of Fathom Online, a search-engine
advertising firm based in New York. "It will all be an
advertising-supported model, which is an epiphany for many
Viewed broadly, the new services represent a shift to what is being
described as "Web 2.0," a new generation of Internet software
technologies that will seamlessly plug together, much like Lego blocks,
in new and unexpected ways.
"These are small pieces loosely joined," said Tim O'Reilly,
chief executive of O'Reilly Media, a publishing and conference company
based in Sebastopol, Calif. "People are creating new functionality
by combining these different services."
While location-based advertising revenue is only beginning to emerge from
the new mapping services, the tools being made available, known as
application programming interfaces, or A.P.I.'s, have already led to an
outburst of innovative applications.
This spring, even before the Google programming interfaces were
published, a Silicon Valley programmer, Paul Rademacher, wrote software
making it possible to display real estate listings from the
bulletin-board site Craigslist overlaid on Google Maps.
The resulting mash-ups, as the hybrid Web services are called, can be
viewed at housingmaps.com. The site has already attracted more than a
half-million viewers and now receives more than 10,000 visits a day.
Virtually all the traffic has come from Internet word-of-mouth publicity;
Mr. Rademacher said he had posted only a single brief notice on
Craigslist asking for testers when he started the service.
The idea came to Mr. Rademacher while he was driving around Silicon
Valley looking for a home to rent. Before starting on his reconnaissance
mission, he said he had painstakingly printed out the location of each
rental listing on a different map.
"I was driving around with a huge stack of paper," he recalled.
"That was the 'Ah-ha' moment; it was obvious they should all be on a
Because the new hybrid services raise potentially thorny questions about
how revenue might be shared as well as potential disputes over the
ownership of digital information, Mr. Rademacher said he had decided to
avoid accepting advertisements on his site and had done it purely as a
proof of concept.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are taking different strategic approaches to
For example, while Google has encouraged enthusiastic experimenters like
Mr. Rademacher, Microsoft is planning to cater to professional software
developers, apparently calculating that they will produce work more
likely to attract advertisers.
"We're all about developers," said Stephen Lawler, general
manager of Virtual Earth and MapPoint at Microsoft. "We don't want
to have them hack at it. We want to support the
A strength of Google's new interface is its simplicity, potentially
bringing mapping information within the grasp of any Web author.
"That's why it's caught on, because it's more accessible than
previous efforts," said Bret Taylor, the product manager for Google
Google's tools are available not only for its more conventional maps but
also for its recently released Google Earth software, which meshes
satellite photography with road maps and other data. The resulting images
can be annotated with directions and other data and also manipulated to
produce the effect of motion in a 3-D aerial view. Microsoft also plans
to make use of satellite data, but its interface will be based on a Web
browser, not separately downloaded software like Google Earth.
In contrast, Yahoo executives said they were skeptical about the value of
satellite imagery, and the company was focusing instead on digital maps.
Yahoo is hoping that groups of Web users will emerge to overlay its maps
with restaurant reviews and other kinds of contributions.
"This is not so much about creating a virtual world, but rather
helping people with the real world," said Paul Levine, Yahoo's
general manager for local services.
Although much of the early experimentation with the new interfaces has
been done by hobbyists, the new wave of consumer-oriented mapping
services is shaking up the relatively staid market for what are known as
geographic information systems, or G.I.S., which for more than a decade
have been tailored largely for business customers.
"In the past there was a grain-silo approach to controlling the
technology," said Nathan Torkington, director of Where 2.0, a
location technology and mapping conference held last month in San
Francisco. "Now we're seeing the distribution of mapping
Moreover, although companies like Microsoft and MapQuest have pioneered
programming interfaces for maps in the past, access has largely been
offered on a transaction basis.
For example, if a company developed a map application based on
Microsoft's MapPoint mapping data, it would pay Microsoft for each map
lookup request it generated.
Mapping industry veterans said that in contrast to previous G.I.S.
systems, the new programming tools make mapping accessible to just about
any Web page designer.
"To be honest, there isn't a lot new here," said Perry Evans,
who founded MapQuest and is now chief executive of Local Matters, a
local-search company based in Denver. "What's different is the
accessibility and the fact that the number of participants in local
target advertising is growing."
Google's decision to encourage experimentation or "hacks" has
led to widespread interest both from programmers and from the traditional
"I'm incredibly excited for all kinds of reasons," said Rupert
Scammell, a software engineer for RSA Security, a software and consulting
company, who has been experimenting with the Google programming tools and
has created several user-interface enhancements for Google maps.
"Doing this was deeply geeky until June 29, when Google reduced the
Google's decision to court the experimenters and hobbyists is
significant, according to a number of Internet veterans, because this is
the community that has traditionally been the source of much of the Net's
"It's a classic example of this thesis that hackers show us the
shape of the future," Mr. O'Reilly said.