GIS MONITOR, Nov 16, 2000


-FCC Deadline on LBS Plans Passes Reduces the Net to a Continent
-A Visit to
-ICANN Reviews .geo
-Comdex and GIS
-Whew! It’s Just Marketing

Editor’s Note: The next issue of the GIS Monitor will be delivered November 30.


The FCC’s November 9 deadline for carriers to submit their plans to implement spatial information has come and gone. The FCC is requiring wireless carriers to provide location information for cell calls by October 2001, mostly for emergency response. The business community sees the requirement as a boon for location based services (LBS).

Most of the big carriers - Sprint, Verizon, SBC, Nextel, Qwest – submitted their plans on time. Many smaller (usually rural) carriers are still working out the details. There was no penalty for not submitting a plan.

Each carrier can use its own existing network to determine location or the more expensive handset based GPS. Some use a hybrid. As prices come down on chips, most will move to a handset based solution.

Privacy activists are already considering the legal implications of collecting and sharing individual’s location information.

ANTARCTI.CA REDUCES NET TO A CONTINENT, a new web site, has a novel interface to the Internet. It uses a 2D or 3D virtual map of the Web to search for content. I found the newly opened site very slow to load. The background map of Antarctica provides no real value. The large colored boxes representing categories, which divide it up, are helpful: they include computers, business, sports, etc.

I began a search on GIS. I clicked on “computers” to find a list of some 40 categories. The map alongside this “legend” included boxes labeled Internet, Mobile Computing, Programming, and Software. A note said I was looking at 20 of 83,405 sites in computers. I selected CAD since it was the closest thing to GIS on the list or the map. That link failed repeatedly. So, I keyed “GIS” into the search box to find that there was indeed a GIS directory under CAD. It contained 54 sites. I adjusted the density of sites on the map until I had all 54 on the screen. I could find no reasoning behind where the sites were located on the map: consultants, portals, magazines, data vendors, software developers were “all over the place.” The TenLinks Map/GIS Directory was near Spot Image, Leica and Sentinel USA.

The sites are culled from The Open Directory project – a directory made by real people (not editors) and used by Netscape, Lycos and others. The sites appear as little black, white and red targets on the map: The thickness of the black circle indicates how many links this site has that point to other Web sites. The white circle indicates the number of other sites that have links to this site. The red dot’s size represents how many pages are found at the site. The yellow arrows signify that the Open Directory Project editor has declared that this site is “cool.” Got that? I wish there was a legend on the Map pages for reference.

The creators argue that “ gives people a way to see [the Web]. In real life, we are well-adapted to dealing with places. We know how to maneuver through them and to store them in our memory. Exposing the underlying "place-ness" of the Web just makes what's there more useful.” That may be true, but are they asking too much from a population still learning to use maps. “ takes the existing technology and leverages it by putting search results in real-life context.” I, for one, am confused: what is “real life” about an imagined map of the Internet.’s business model involves licensing its technology via an ASP model.

A VISIT TO MAPPLANET.COM is a place to connect your web information to a place on earth. It is also a registry and search engine with paid advertising. Here’s how it works. Members are encouraged to register their site geographically into one of the hexagonal cells covering roughly a square kilometer of the earth’s surface. Then, users with a Java app or Windows plug-in can search spatially for that information. Registration and searching are free.

There are some problems. First off, each cell can only hold one site, so if the chosen site is already occupied, you may have to settle for something “nearby.” Second, you need to find your way to a cell via the famous high-resolution satellite image of the world (by Tom Van Sant). Towns, mountains and islands appear as you zoom in. Then, once you are zoomed sufficiently, you view the individual cells. The cells can hold text, hyperlinks, mail address or images. There are no roads or other infrastructure to help you locate the spot of interest. Once you have chosen a cell, you can fill in such things as the “mouse over” text, a URL, an image, and some keywords for searching.

On the map I could zoom in, and click on cells that were registered, to see the links and other data. And I could key in lat/long values if I knew them (what, you don’t know yours?). I was unable to find where I might search for the values in the records in the traditional search engine portion. I could search on type, country, province and name, but I was not too sure what these were since they did not seem to parallel the values for cells I found on the map. In fact, I was unable to perform a single successful database search. There was no help to be found.

MapPlanet describes itself as: - an experimental virtual community - a geographically organized search facility - a navigation tool on a high-resolution internet based map of the world - a way to submit your site into some geographical context - a search machine for geographic places - a search machine for all the privately submitted sites - a fun to enjoy the geographic internet experience way to

The most interesting part of the site is the map of registered cells. Guess what? They hug the dense population centers of the world – with heavy concentration in the eastern and west coast of the US and Western Europe.

MapPlanet does boast their top 20 – based on member votes. What exactly you are voting on is unclear. However, be warned that the site on top of the list is not exactly a family oriented destination.

MapPlanet is certainly an interesting site, even if it may not be very useful at this point.


ICANN posted its comments on .geo, the new top-level domain name proposed last month. ICANN voiced some concerns including the untested nature of .geo, the high buy-in costs for georegistries, and extensive use of third parties. But on the whole, ICANN found the “novelty of the proposal makes it stand out.” Finally, they note: “This proposal has very strong potential to change how the Internet is used, if it is successful at all.”

These comments lead me to believe that ICANN may well pass .geo and use it as a test case for innovative domain use.


Comdex is the largest technology exhibition in the United States. A quick search through the exhibitor list found only 3 GIS companies: ESRI, DeLorme and GIS Soft. GIS Soft is from Korea and focuses on Web mapping. Nexian, Inc. will show a street-level mapping product, bundled with a GPS for the Visor. Junglesoft, and Newstel and will demo their LBS solutions. I’m confident there are more GIS packages on the floor – embedded in other solutions.


Yesterday I received a plain white envelope from The Bureau for Better Identification. It had “Official Business” and “Summons to Appear Enclosed”. Oh, and of course, “confidential.”

Inside was a half size sheet from United States District 4 with official looking SUBPOENA from the State of Illinois. I was to appear at a conference at a particular booth and bring my “signage requirements.” In small print I found the name of a graphics firm that I believe produces signs. Note, too that For Better Identification is FBI! It was cute, but required far too much energy to figure out what they did, and why they were subpoenaing me. I was disappointed that they did not give me a web address to visit. It was a fine call to action, but if I somehow missed the show, there was no way to reach them!


Last week I asked where SylvanMaps had gone. They are safe and sound at their website.


You can reach more than 6,000 GIS professionals every issue by sponsoring GIS Monitor. For more information, email

Please send comments and suggestions to:
Adena Schutzberg
GIS Monitor Editor
Ultimate Map/GIS Directory - Your search is over!

If you wish to subscribe, unsubscribe or change your preferences visit our
subscription page.