Deep network linking: Good, bad or ugly?

Get Amazon A9’s street-side photos via a network link. That’s a pretty amazing demonstration of how one service’s content can be repurposed onto another’s platform. Simply zoom in over an area that has coverage (try the East Village, NYC) and wait for the network link to return a placemark with a link to the appropriate photo. (Via Le Blogue du LFG – Guadalajara, Mexique)


The “brain” of this network link is an ASP script on This is not the first instance of such a mashing up of services: An early network link let you put Google Maps tiles on Google Earth, and a more recent one (also by puts tiles by Swedish mapping service Eniro onto Google Earth. When somebody wrote an add-on for World Wind that puts Google Maps tiles onto that globe, it was removed at the request of Google. You can, however, get Microsoft Virtual Earth tiles superimposed on World Wind, because this add-on is sanctioned by Microsoft.

What’s the legality of (unsanctioned) scripts powering network links? They are definitely parasitic — the result is that the bandwidth and efforts of the host company are used without the host company being able to generate revenues from this. But all that the scripts actually do is generate URLs for deep links into a publicly available image database, and that deep link is just the same as any other deep link on the web. As far as I know, if it’s publicly available and you can link to it, there are no legal recourses for the linkee. In fact, “linking policies” that try to regulate how you may link to a website regularly get ridiculed on Boing Boing.

One thing that should not distract from the legal question is the type of browser used to display the content of deep links: Whether a Google Maps tile is displayed “naked” in a web browser, via a network link in Google Earth, via a network link in ArcGIS Explorer or via a World Wind add-on is not relevant — these are all unintended uses. A network link is a snippet of KML, and thus can/will be used by any number of geobrowsers, not just Google Earth.

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