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#1
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I hope that this will be an interesting Topic Starter.

I've been looking at the Google Earth phenomena. It is obvious that web mapping applications are here to stay and that Google intends to be the key player.

It seems that a lot of people are using Google Earth and their underlying map data (vector and imagery) to:
- create WebMapping Application (Mashups I believe they are called).
- overlay polygon, lines, points and 3D (kml data) from other sources (e.g. GIS-CAD SketchUP etc. ).
- create GPS route-waypoints overlays.
- geocoding locations.
- overlay 3d building footprints.

As a professional freelancing Cartographer-GIS technician and programmer I have yet to jump onto the big Google Earth boat.

I have listed the main reasons for not investing any business efforts into Google and not making it a business offering as such.

1. I am afraid that the fact there are paying versions;Enterprise (?$) PRO (400$ US annually) and PLUS (20$ US annually) is an indicator that the Free version is meant to lure users into the paying versions.
2. That eventually advertising revenues will not be enough for the greedy share holders and that other forms of revenues will be inevitable. (Beware Mashups developers?)
3. That the actual costs of maintaining a universal map database (intelligent vector and imagery) has been underrated by Google and that some extra revenues will be required in the near future.
4. That all the acquisitions that Google had to make to get into this business and will need to make to remain a leader also plays into the money factor.
5. Working with the Google environment does not allow much cartographic freedom. The cartographic standards are pre-set.
6. Does not allow full freedom for web interface design (for the creation of MashUps).
7. The problem factor of having to install plugins on a machine. Security issues, or is just a plain nuisance. I actually installed it and removed it on my machine, and I can live without it.
8. The kml data you overlay is not protected.

Other concerns using Google Earth in your service chain for your clients?

As for most things in life there is always another side to the medal...
I leave to those that believe that having Google in their business offerings is must for survival (or a plus) to bring forth their arguments.
Maybe I just don't understand the Google community and its potential (for cartographers) and I should reconsider...
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#2
peanut

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Using the Google Maps API will get you around many of concerns you have outlined here and will get you most of the functionality.

Look at the following link:

http://www.google.com/apis/maps/

This service is completely free as long as you are not wanting to build an intranet site. The site must be exposed to the internet.

The Google Maps API allows for plenty of cartographic freedom and the features are becoming more and more robust every day.

I have added a full watershed map to the following site using the Google Maps API:

http://crwn.lcra.org

I have been extremely happy with the Google Maps API thus far.

Rich

#3
Derek Tonn

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3. That the actual costs of maintaining a universal map database (intelligent vector and imagery) has been underrated by Google and that some extra revenues will be required in the near future.

5. Working with the Google environment does not allow much cartographic freedom. The cartographic standards are pre-set.

8. The kml data you overlay is not protected.


Jacques,

I selectively quoted three points from your initial message, as I wanted to offer a reply on those specific areas. First, "#3". Actually, I think Google is well-aware of the costs of maintaining this type of database. The question they have likely discussed around the conference table though relates to how quickly GE continues to gain momentum in the industry and how quickly people's expectations for more thorough information and a higher level of image quality occurs. Most people still "Ooh and Aah" over all those lifeless gray cubes that they can rotate around in the GE interface. How quickly until the average GE user is no longer impressed or satisfied by all of those lifeless "gray cubes"....and Google is forced to try and seriously raise the bar? The challenge for Google will be to ride the "coolness" wave indefinitely with GE.....or at least long enough to make sure that any hint of competition will be left in their wake. ;)

"#5" is a big disappointment of mine at the moment. To embed anything within GE, you essentially must wrap photos around your objects instead of having drawn facades on your building faces. I know exactly why they are doing that! They need to ensure a sense of consistency while keeping files sizes (and download times) small. However, if there is one Achilles' heel in the current GE technology, it is that the output looks terrible in printed form. We have been drawing SketchUp maps for around 18 months now, and we have been able to achieve some very nice results in our work using drawn facades. Wrap those facades in a photo though, and the quality of those drawn areas under magnification or in print turns to mud. That is the one door that Google has left hanging wide-open to their competition at the moment, although Microsoft's Virtual Earth is seemingly going down the identical path. It is a shame for them, as that could be their one golden-ticket to giving GE a run for its money. With GE and SketchUp working hand-in-hand though, I just don't see Microsoft winning that war.

On "#8", there actually is a number of things that can be done to lock-down many aspects and elements within many of those files. It's not "perfect", but you can force someone trying to borrow/steal your work to waste days trying to crack-open the safe, if you will.

We'll see what happens over the next few years. Poor translation into printed output is something Google is trying to address with their Layout program, but I think they are still a version or two away from having that being close to where it needs to be to do the job effectively. It would also help if they streamlined/optimized their graphical interface on the site as well....as much of the satellite imagery they are using could go on a "diet" and not lose any visual quality whatsoever. But I've been banging that drum with a few people I know at Google for MONTHS now, and nobody seems to care. :(

My $0.02.

Derek
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#4
benbakelaar

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I agree with those advocating moving first into Google Maps, the 2-D version of Google Earth. It's much less likely to run into monetary/support/advertising/revenue issues, and if it does, there are currently about 5 other "free" services you could hot-swap to. Google Earth should be for timely projects only - i.e. those that don't need to be accessed years later - especially because of its hardware requirements.

EDIT: Basically, what I (and others) are saying is that WMS/map server technology is more mature than "virtual globe"/3-d technology.

#5
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Rich,
Your use of the Google API is very interesting and very well done. You have posted it here at CartoTalk and it has received good reviews.

But this clause in the terms and use makes me sceptic.
Google Maps API Terms of Use....
...Google reserves the right to include advertising in the maps images provided to You through the Service, but will provide You with ninety (90) days notice prior to the commencement of advertising...

This uncertainty is probably the price to pay to produce a low cost web mapping app.
and as Ben mentions if gets too costly you can always move to other services. But after investing time in learning a specific API it means yet another learning curve.

Derek,
You are probably correct, Google did invest a lot effort with their business plan. (it would be nice to take wind of it all). I Also agree that kml data can made hard for hackers to obtain. (no web data is completely secure). As for the 3d implications you are the expert as far as I am concern.
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#6
benbakelaar

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There are also many robust open-source solutions for web mapping services. See MapServer from UMN (the original??), and Worldkit.org for starters. No chance of advertising being inserted - only issue might be loss of free map tile set, but you can be almost sure it will be replaced by someone else. Or you can just host your own.

#7
peanut

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But this clause in the terms and use makes me sceptic.
Google Maps API Terms of Use....
...Google reserves the right to include advertising in the maps images provided to You through the Service, but will provide You with ninety (90) days notice prior to the commencement of advertising...

This uncertainty is probably the price to pay to produce a low cost web mapping app.
and as Ben mentions if gets too costly you can always move to other services. But after investing time in learning a specific API it means yet another learning curve.


I agree with you that the inclusion of advertising would be less than ideal, but if they decide to include advertising in the future they will give you the option to move to Google Maps Enterprise. Google Maps Enterprise costs $10,000 but won't include advertising on the maps and allows you to develop Intranet applications which you currently cannot do with Google's free API.

I have a feeling the advertising, if they do implement it won't be very obtrusive. Look at the following link:
http://maps.google.c...015506,0.033131
This is how advertising has been implemented on http://maps.google.com

What surprises me is how much ESRI is missing the boat on all of this. What makes Google Maps so user friendly is that they have pre-rendered all of their tiles for all of the different zoom levels which means all of the basemap information is just sitting there waiting to be used as light weight images. I figured ESRI was going to do something similiar with ArcGIS server but in the demostrations I have seen they haven't. They have implemented a tile concept similiar to Google with one key difference. The tiles are rendered on the server based upon user requests. This rendering of the tiles on the server hurts the responsiveness of ArcGIS server applications as compared to Google Maps applications. ESRI does allow for caching of tiles that have already been produced on the server, but this requires that someone has already requested that specific map.

Rich

#8
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so user friendly is that they have pre-rendered all of their tiles for all of the different zoom levels which means all of the base map information is just sitting there waiting to be used as light weight images


Rich,

I agree. If you are a developer this is great. If you are a cartographer you tend to say.... no need to prepare data, to do some cartographic design etc... in sum the cartographic factor is nil (or near it). It is apparent that the speed found in Google is a strong point, and as you stated some commercial web applications can't seem to achieve the same speed.

Ben,

I agree. Open source (MapServer the original one - not the commercialized one ;) ) is a great option. Actually OpenSource is great overall. The development is yours (or your clients). No need to quote a client with e.g. 10K plus for a web license plus your development time. (more freedom to pay yourself). The free Google option is nice as quick solution for some jobs, but I don't think it fits in my business model.
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#9
rmcculley

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I'm late to the discussion, but anyways ...

The number one problem with Google Earth for me is the EULA:

1. USE OF SOFTWARE The Software is made available to you for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Software or the geographical information made available for display using the Software, or any prints or screen outputs generated with the Software in any commercial or business environment or for any commercial or business purposes for yourself or any third parties.


The free version of Google Earth cannot be used in a commercial environment. Period.

The next problem is the actual licensing of Google Earth Pro. The license is associated with an email address. If you read the license, it effectively gives you the right for a sinlge user to use the software on a single system. So if you have an environment where a single user uses more than one system, you either need multiple licenses for that user, or you need to uninstall/reinstall everytime you switch systems.

So basically, you need to buy the Pro version to use Google Earth in a corporate environment, and the licensing system of the pro version is anything but corporate.

#10
byzantium

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I worry about the EULA too.

There is the other big limitation of these types of services: if the network or server goes down, all the maps you have are instantly gone. Now most corporate users may laugh at that because they have high reliability networks, but it all depends on who your audience is.

Just one example: in a disaster, most network access would suddenly go away. People who are used to turning to anything that depends on Google Maps/Earth APIs are all suddenly hosed if they needed that map unless they made a printout.

bb

#11
melon_mapper

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I know I am late to the discussion. I have used Google Earth at home and the kids loved it to track Santa. I think it is a good resources and a good reference tool-

On my professional side as a GIS Specialist, I am conflicted. While I can see the staff of scientist and engineers in my office using it as a resource, weare getting some who want to imbed it in web based applications (I am not sure if it is internal or external) that they are creating. We do have ArcIMS and have developed several tools that can be embedded with better imagery than Google has for rural Nevada (the state was flown in 2006 as apart of the NAIP program) along with our own data. We are migrating to ArcGIS server to help with the 3D aspect of it. That is what I am conflicted about Internally we have resources that can come close to matching Google (imagery, data, 3D) but staff still want to use Google, which has the storage and tools to store large sets of imagery that are mosaiked together.

I can see the benefits of google, but if the cost and possible use of advertisers on a government map site will definatley raise eyebrows.

John




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