Who is David Maguire? As a GIS neophyte (I have friends who do GIS!) I had no clue, but I do now. He is “director of products” (is that like product manager, only different?) for ESRI, the company considered to be the world leader in GIS software and technology, and which has been sounding a tad defensive now that mass mapping as envisaged by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! is enjoying the limelight.
Maguire implies that Google Earth and its ilk are a fad, a bubble, and rhetorically wonders why people have written about it. He can think of six reasons: It’s Google, it’s free, it’s easy, it’s detailed, it’s fast and it’s different, (but read the post yourself).
That’s sort of stunning, because to me, the most important reason why Google Earth and Maps are a runaway success is not on his list: It’s social software. Google Earth is an extremely compelling canvas that people are using to link their experiences in the real world to the web.
Just one example: This afternoon, as soon as I heard about the copycat bombings in London, I fired up Google Earth, turned on my Blogwise network link and zoomed in on London. Five seconds later, a slew of local blogs popped up on the screen, including one I remembered having had exhaustive coverage of the bombings two weeks ago. Sure enough, within minutes I had read through a minute-by-minute account of this latest ordeal.
Meanwhile, with Google Maps, it’s all about open APIs allowing us to be creative in a myriad ways, doing things with a collective intelligence that no company, not even Google, could ever foresee.
But at least Google knows this.