Géoportail gets 3D buildings, but stays closed

France’s Géoportail adds 3D buildings to its Skyline Globe-powered 3D web browsing tool, which it first introduced to Windows browsers in back July 2007 (after launching the 2D version in the summer of 2006).

The announcement by Minister of Ecology Jean-Louis Borloo says, and I translate here,

With Géoportail, France has the first European portal for accessing geographic information in three dimensions. It shows off the unique knowledge of the [state GIS agency] IGN, which has always provided cutting edge public service.

As a result, most French blogs are reporting the news that Géoportail has just added 3D, when it has in fact had it since July. (The buildings are new — as are some new default layers, like walks and georeferenced archival news videos).

And while Géoportail is indeed the first portal made by Europeans for 3D mapping (albeit by licensing American technology), it is not the first portal to show Europe in 3D. In fact, it still doesn’t. (Google Earth, NASA World Wind and Microsoft Virtual Earth came before and do all of Europe. Géoportail shows nothing beyond France’s borders.)

Géoportail certainly is much more impressive that the UK Ordnance Survey’s “outreach” effort, but both are just as closed in a time when everything online is moving towards open, interoperable, mashable standards. KML is now an OGC standard, most recently embraced by Microsoft. Where is the support By IGN and OS? Why can’t I export anything to mash up? Where are the APIs? The USGS, on the other hand, gets it.

Time to reiterate: National GIS agencies should concentrate on getting the best GIS content, acting as a repository for it, and making it accessible to all. Competing with Google and Microsoft to provide end-user services based on this content is a waste of public resources, especially as Google and Microsoft will always do it better.

7 thoughts on “Géoportail gets 3D buildings, but stays closed”

  1. Well, it wasn’t made to show europe in 3d, and in fact, it will certainly never do it : it’s not it’s job …

    Beside that, try not to mistake a Minister’s announcement and the technical reality behind it.

    Why can’t you export anything ? To protect the data : if they can’t sell this data, they won’t be able to “get the best GIS content” as you pointed this as the most important thing there. And even with the income coming from the comercial use of data and maps, i’m afraid it’s still not enough to get the best we could hope for.

    As for the partners, one of the key point of accepting to be shown on the Géoportail is precisely that the data CANNOT be retrieved directly from it …

    … else, no one would’ve applied, be assured of that.

    Beside that, Géoportail isn’t really meant to be a “pretty end-user mapping application” but to be what its name imply : a portal. A link to all the partner’s own site/maps/information. You compare it to Google earth and MS Live maps ? I compare it to planetgs : you come there to have a broad viewpoint of what can be accessed, you have the first few bits of info and if you’re interested, you can hop from there to the data owner’s page and get all you can from there.

    Finally, as for Google and Microsoft always doing it better, are you really happy that the end-user services are the result of only 2-3 companies ? I’m not. In fact, even if the result is far behind, I would be happy to see hundreds of public/national GE wannabes.


  2. I have done a blog with images of the geoportal. If you want see more images and see how wonderful it is, you can visit that: blog about the geoportal 3D.

    I will post some news about the geoportal.

    By the way: it is in french, but images are readable by everybody :-)

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