One Man’s Disruptor is Another Man’s Incumbent


Andrew Turner is looking for a few companies to follow him that might actually stick around for more than a year

I started to respond to this blog post on All Points Blog about a GigaOm article on API disruption, but I think I’d rather take more time and talk about it on my blog. Taking a look at that chart you can quickly see you can disagree with almost anything on it both ways. This is how I’d list incumbents and disruptors in the GIS/Mapping API space as I see it.


  • Google Maps: Show me another GIS/Mapping API out there that has such broad support.
  • Mapquest: They wish they were a disruptor, but I still see too many websites using their old APIs to say they aren’t an incumbent. Plus my grandmother swears by their maps.
  • Esri: From their legacy web mapping applications and APIs, they are still well supported in the government space. Clearly they are on this list.
  • Microsoft: Bing Maps API is used by more websites than any other API other than Google.


  • MapBox: Are you kidding me here? How are they not on that list. All the disruption I’ve seen in the past 6 months has been by them.
  • Esri: Transition to ArcGIS Online has been slow, but you got to figure this will again be well supported by governments. Probably more disruption toward “Incumbent Esri” than the others though.
  • Apple: Only in the sense that I suspect their Mapping APIs will be well supported on their platforms. That means less use of Google Maps API on iOS and OS X.

Now what about the two that GigaOm listed that I didn’t. First off Trimble, if they have APIs that are being used I’m not really aware of them outside of a couple niches. I wouldn’t call that incumbent. Now I do think Trimble is trying to be disruptive so maybe in the next year we’ll see them show up there given their move into more consumer mapping. As for CloudMade, I’ll be honest and say I haven’t heard much from them lately other than Leaflet. It could be those in the Valley know more than I about them so I guess they could be disruptive. From where I sit though, I’d say MapBox is the new Cloudmade.


Seems right to me, doesn’t it?


The Future of GITA

So the future of GITA is not about conferences but education. From a letter posted on Directions Magazine:

GITA is transitioning to a new business model that will be less dependent on conferences and physical events, and one that will offer individuals and organizations new and different ways to participate and gain benefit from participation in the wider geospatial community.

We’ll have to see if this new mission gets companies and people to move and let the GITA train continue.



Catching Up After a Busy Week

When you have your head down and working hard, you fear missing some good stuff. Sadly it appears our space is getting a bit stale with news.


Are We Headed Off the Cliff?

I was able to find a couple interesting tidbits though: * GITA cancels the 2012 Oil & Gas Pipeline Conference:>It is with regret that GITA announces that the 2012 Oil & Gas Pipeline Conference has been cancelled. We sincerely appreciate the interest shown by exhibitors and sponsors for this year’s event, as well as by attendees from previous years. The decision was made based upon several factors, including financial considerations and overall risk assessments.

The GITA Board of Directors is meeting in the near future to discuss what the future holds for the association. More information will be released on this website, as well as to GITA’s various stakeholder groups as soon as possible.

Yikes, sounds like GITA is going to be shut down. These niche organizations are having trouble being relevant these days. Too bad, I know a ton of good people over there who worked very hard on FOSS4G 2011. * GIS Cloud releases Publisher extension for ESRI ArcMap:>The GIS Cloud Publisher for ArcMap extension enables you to publish your maps from ArcMap to GIS Cloud with only one click. It automatically uploads your data, symbology, layer structure and spatial references. The idea is that what you see in your desktop GIS is instantly replicated on your GIS Cloud account. Once your maps and data are on GIS Cloud, they are easily published to the public or embedded into your website/blog without a need for having your own servers.

So is GIS Cloud now an competitor (or whatever that’s being called these days)? I’m curious to see if people are interested in these services. My money is on MapBox over Esri and GIS Cloud in the consumer/commercial space, but I’m not sure about government customers. I guess we’ll see. * Speaking of MapBox, they’ve got some nice news this month. First off TileMill 0.9.1 is now out and supports some great new features including large rasters. Second they’ve got new retina tiles available for users of iPhone 4/4S and the new iPad. Third they’ve got this new static map API. I’ve been a big fan of Google’s Static Map API so I’m looking forward to playing with MapBox’s when I have some time. * Lastly Esri may finally have a business plan, name and cost for ArcGIS Online for Organizations. I guess this is going to be the “big” announcement at the UC? Is there demand for these products? Am I missing something here? If you work for an organization that is waiting for this and is excited, I’d love to hear about it. Doubt I’ll see anything though.


Possible Data Sources in Apple’s iOS Map

So what do you do on a Friday morning when an editor tells you to get some “exclusive” Apple news on the front page. Clearly this:

According to trusted sources, Apple has an incredible headline feature in development for iOS 6: a completely in-house maps application. Apple will drop the Google Maps program running on iOS since 2007 in favor for a new Maps app with an Apple backend.

Apple Navigation

So the iOS map app is really old and busted and this is not exactly news. I’m guessing Lead Dog and Urban Mapping will be along for the ride as well as OpenStreetMap. Apple will probably blend many data sources like their iOS iPhone maps, rather than buy wholesale from Navteq or TomTom.

Preview LeadDog datasets on WeoGeo Market
WeoGeo Market


Designing Icons for Web Cartography

MapBox just keeps giving and giving! If you haven’t started using Maki yet, you’ll want to get on that bandwagon ASAP. Even the nounproject is getting on board.

Maps are capable of powerfully communicating ideas, clearly visualizing complex data, and adding context to a stories, whether you’re mapping humanitarian crisis in Africa or providing directions to the nearest café. As a designer with MapBox, I’ve been working on and off over the last few months on Maki, an open source icon set made especially for cartography and based on the points-of-interest used in OpenStreetMap. In cartography, points-of-interest include things like restaurants, bus stations, and schools. Maki will eventually grow to include icons for pretty much anything you might want to mark on a map.

This is a clear example of why an open collaborative design process will always win over closed minded dictatorships.



Apple’s iPhoto Maps Now Show Attribution

The last update to iPhoto on iOS finally attributes the map.

Apple Attribution

You’ll remember there was great speculation about where the data came from. Many people said OSM, I was sure it was TIGER/Line. Well as you can see there is a huge blend of open and free data sources from OSM to TIGER to VMap0 and Geonames. Two commercial sources you may be familiar with are LeadDog and Urban Mapping.


Microsoft TerraServer Is No More

So Microsoft TerraServer is finally dead. In its time, I used it to test WMS, but I’m not sure I ever really used it for anything else. Much like LandSat, I’ll shed no tears. It served its purpose and now it must die.


It must have been pretty lonely around the TerraServer offices lately