October 3, 2007

“Peer-to-peer cartography”

Filed under: Open source — Tags: , , — ubikcan @ 8:44 am

I was roundly dinged recently for suggesting that GIS companies such as ESRI face a growing threat from open source and geoweb mapping services (for example the military and some corporations are turning away from COTS to open-source solutions).

Yet I appear not to be the only one coming to this conclusion. Via Directions Mag comes this link to an article on TomTom in the PC Authority:

The ability to share updates opens the door to free, community-created maps – a development which dramatically severs the umbilical link that has bound SatNav to commercial map makers such as Tele Atlas and Navteq.

This can only be good news for consumers, who have previously had to pay to keep their SatNav maps up-to-date; but it’s a disaster for the cartographers, who may soon discover – as those who publish magazines, music, films and software already have – how little respect the internet has for content creators.

It’s not online law-breakers that could threaten the map makers’ livelihoods, though: it’s a million competitors working together, perfectly legally, for free.

Cartography may be in disarray, but quite the contrary for mapping. Denis Wood once said “Cartography is dead (thank God)” (pdf) and it’s this crucial difference he had in mind.


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