On Friday, French President Jacques Chirac will inaugurate Géoportail, the much-hyped (in France) response to Google Earth. So maintains
Pipilogue Pipologue, which together with another blogger was able to sneak in and post some screenshots.
All those screenshots show is a Google Maps clone. If that is the full product being launched tomorrow, I will be very underwhelmed, and Géoportail will have been quite the PR stunt. Other European countries have long had web-based high-resolution national mapping and imagery services — one fine example is the Swiss; the Swedes have at least two free ones. And all these are commercial ventures, not requiring a head of state to launch; France’s Géoportail is produced by the Institut Géographique National (IGN), a state entity.
IGN, meanwhile, has come in for some strong criticism in an article (in French) on a French GIS news site (Thanks, Declan!). Apparently, Géoportail is still being developed in an ongoing state of confusion about its intended goals — notably, there is still no agreement among different steering committees about how much data should be made free. All this is providing grist for a good old-fashioned turf war, reports the article.
AFP confirms the launch for Friday (minus the Chirac tidbit). Look for it at www.geoportail.fr. I won’t be able to, as I am soon off to an island in the Baltic, celebrating the national holiday of the summer solstice on Friday June 23 with lots of Swedes. In case you’re wondering, Swedes prefer 3-day weekends over pinpoint astronomical accuracy — druids everywhere are appalled.