Microsoft is smartly asking governmental agencies to publish their satellite and aerial imagery though Virtual Earth.

GoVE supports the data sharing goals of many public sector organizations by providing a free publishing service. Through GoVE, your taxpayer-funded information will be provided on a free, open access web site that benefits taxpayers, government officials, your corporate tax base, state and local governments, etc.

I think the definition of “free, open access” is a little different than most of us would assume it to be. That said, I really don’t have any problem with cities pushing their data into Virtual Earth, Google Earth or any other commercial API.

If there is any problem with it though, it is in the restrictions the API puts on developers and how they can use the data. I would recommend that any government that wants to put their imagery up on the web and be available for everyone to use, take advantage of Google and Microsoft, but also use services such as OpenAerialMap which have licenses that everyone can use and probably more beneficial to the taxpayers as they aren’t paying Microsoft for access to their data. Letting Microsoft and Google have the imagery is nice, but letting the community freely use it as well is just as nice.

Oz Gatekeeper Less gatekeepers of aerial imagery is a good thing for the community

Update: Andres writes about Google’s new MapMaker and wonders the same thing about community getting to use such services freely. I mean what is the point about putting effort into these initiatives if you can’t get the data back out. There are organizations that I would freely donate my time to, but Microsoft and Google aren’t them. I’m starting to sound like SteveC

Update 2: Umibot over at Off the Map (Urban Mapping’s Blog) hits on the point that many are making about the Google:

It isn’t that Google can do neighborhoods ‘better’ than UMI (or anybody else), it’s the idea that Google doesn’t need anybody else to do it for them. In fact, they don’t need to do it themselves’throw it over to a fanatical user base, and watch them diligently work away

At least they could do it though Amazon Mechanical Turk and reward users for taking the effort clean up Google’s maps. Given how much money the Google is making off of these services, at least they could toss everyone a bone or some Google Goo.

Google Goo