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.