Via Le Blogue du CFM de Guadalajara comes news that France’s National Geographic Institute (IGN) has just announced Géoportail (“geoportal”), a mapping initiative that will make all of France available at 50cm resolution in a Google Maps-like GUI starting this summer. “3D navigation” is promised for 2007, without specifying how.
Over on IGN’s site you can download the press kit (PDF, French) whose introductory text reveals an interesting motivation behind the initiative (translated):
The world in the palm of your hand… What about France?
Navigating from Broadway to Bankok with a click of the mouse, comfortably installed in front of the computer screen… The 9.5 million French households with broadband connections to the internet (and those all over the world) last summer were able to practice flying around the planet with “Google Earth”.
This site [sic.] has demonstrated the strong interest by our citizens for this type of navigation and for access to a great variety of information. The National Geographic Insitute had to respond to this demand.
The images will be free to view, as will 1:100,000 topo map overlays, but 1:25,000 topo map overlays would require the purchase of a licence.
I’m not yet sold on this project. There is no mention of open standards, for example. And just as the existence of Google Print prompted France to agitate for a similar European project, Géoportail seems aimed at ensuring France is not viewed exclusively via “Anglo-saxon” geobrowsers.
Ideally, the focus should be on the content, with Géoportail merely a default viewer of data that is also served in open source formats for whoever wants it, and for any geobrowser. And why not licence a copy of the database to Google, Microsoft, NASA and ESRI at favorable rates, to spread geographic knowledge of France? For a state agency like IGN to lock content into one browser would be to repeat the mistake of Minitel, which so retarded the uptake of the real Internet in France.