Friday, November 18, 2005

2005: The Year of the Geographical Revolution

So, earlier this week I had the opportunity to sit in a fascinating presentation by Michael T. Jones, who is the Chief Technology Officer for Google Earth. He was speaking at the 2005 GIS Day event, organized by the Bay Area Automated Mapping Association (BAAMA) at the University of California -- Berkeley (Cal) campus, to a room full of about 250 GIS professionals, students, professors and interested friends thereof. He brought some kind of state-of-the-art laptop to run his presentation, and used it to give us (the audience) a blazingly fast presentation of Google Earth and exactly what is has been used for thus far.

He claims that the Google Earth Community currently has ~250,000 members, and that it is growing by approximately eight new members a minute -- worldwide. To prove this latter point, he went to places as diverse as Beijing, China and Bombay, India to show off just how many placemarks (think bookmarks & hyperlinks rolled into one, given a geographical reference and posted on the Google Earth Community) have been posted in these places. As you zoom in, the placemarks for both places tended to fill the screen, eventually blotting out the rest of the map.... and why? Because there are a lot of people in India. And also a lot of people in China. And the law of percentages means that, even if .001 percent of a lot of people knows how to use a computer, and .00001 percent of those have discovered Google Earth, that still translates into a lot of Google Earth users in these places. And because the current user base represents such an astoundingly small fraction of the total potential user base in these places (or the planet, for that matter), there is (how much can I understate this?) *plenty* of room for growth.

How much growth has already occurred in the mere four (4) months that Google Earth has been in existence?

Mr. Jones showed us some numbers. They're astounding... but not necessarily surprising to anybody who is familiar with both the extent of Google's market share and this product. Let's just put it this way: When you do a web search for "Google Earth" you get x many hits, and when you do a web search for the term "GIS" you only get ~1.3x more hits. For the blogosphere, when you do a search for the term "GIS" you get x many hits, and when you do a search for "Google Earth" you get more like 2x hits. Get it? The buzz about this product is HUGE, and growing more or less exponentially. For a company like Google that offers a more or less free product, buzz = business.

Where is this all leading? Here is one idea:

That is, Google is seeking to both lay down the physical worldwide infrastructure to support its services, and offer worldwide services for free to anyone with a computr anywhere on the planet. What services? Information. On anything. Keyed geographically. To anybody.

The possibilities are pretty much endless.

That's why I say that 2005 is the year of the Geographical Revolution. The time is now. The place is here -- this planet Earth, and spearheaded right here in the very same San Francisco Bay Area that I temporarily call my own home (though I must say that, hailing from Portland, Oregon, my ancestral, spiritual and permanent home is still in the great green state to the north of here).

And Google is the company that has drop-kicked this revolution into existence with its good sense to provide a geographical reference point for its products.

Let's just say that Michael T. Jones "gets it," in a major way. Say you want to do a Google Search. You want those results displayed on a map? No problem.


You don't have to think too much about the possibilities, because they *are* endless & infinite.

So, finally, let me just finish with a three-legged question:

What is the nexus between these three things?

1. The Geographical Revolution, as embodied by Google Earth, et. al.
2. The fast spread of cheap computing power, as embodied by the $100 laptop announced this week.
3. President Bush's declining opinion polls, and the general state of politics and democracy in the American Republic.

comments welcome.


AUTHOR: <$Garlynn G. Woodsong$>
TITLE: <$2005: The Year of the Geographical Revolution$>
DATE: <$Nov. 18th, 2005 11:15am$>

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