Platial and the Neogeography of the Web

Over four years ago, as I experimented with the emerging broad tools for location, mobile, and the web, Platial arose to be the new place to easily share location information. Utilizing the increasingly popular GoogleMaps platform they made it clear that people were going to engage in new and comfortable ways with geospatial technology.

I remember being impressed by Platial and the goal of providing a way for anyone to easily annotate places that mattered to them.When I originally pitched the idea of a "Neogeography" book to O'Reilly it was with the inspiration of Di-Ann's drive to citizen access to geospatial tools that I considered how people should be able to map their genealogy and share their trips.

As Mikel and I built Mapufacture, we partnered with Platial on several projects. Platial had attempted to make a local information aggregator that never really took off, and so we discussed how to utilize the geospatial data aggregation platform in Mapufacture to provide and aggregate content for Platial. I even helped build and test the Platial developer API using the first iterations of AtomPub and OpenSearch, the results of which can now be seen in Mapufacture's and GeoCommons' APIs.

In looking at specifically the GeoWeb landscape, Platial definitely provided a necessary capability of easily allowing people to annotate and share locations. It is the more explicit version of more recent location-sharing tools such as FourSquare, BrightKite, or Latitude that merely ask where you are, not what's important to you. When Mapufacture was acquired by FortiusOne, the combination of the large head of geographic data in GeoCommons, combined with the very long-tail of aggregated sensor and streaming information provided for mixing disparate datasources and understanding of context and relevance. Users want to collaborate around all types of data, and share insights, find out relevant information, share this with friends, family, coworkers, and their government.

GeoWeb Landscape-1.jpg

Clearly geographic data is not merely limited to traditional map sources or cartographic outputs. Location is being integrated across all platforms and recognized as a primary component of any data. What differs is the means by which users will interact, create, and use this information depending on their needs, context, and capabilities.

As has been widely reported by the news, GeoCommons is archiving the Platial user data and maps. Users can find their data by visiting the GeoCommons Platial Source page and searching for their username or maps and freely download them or build new maps and widgets. Along the way, perhaps users will also realize the capability of combining their personal information with relevant geographic data - because for example, you should know great surfing spots combined with wave heights and approved recreation areas.

Where to Surf? View full map

Di-Ann, Chris, Jason, Jake, and the rest of the tremendous Platial team have provided an amazing lead in the future of user contributed mapping - and while Platial itself is currently on hiatus, we're excited that GeoCommons can provide a role in continuing open access to Platial users' data and easy to use tools for them to visualize, analyze, and share their experiences and insights.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.