GeoWeb helps the Internet become a smaller place

GeoWeb breating location-aware internet experiences

Location, location, location is the mantra in real estate. Could it be the same for the Internet? The answer is "yes', according panelists at a MIT technology conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts this week.

The merging of location-based information with services such as Flickr, Yelp, and social networks is creating location-aware online experience for users, says John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Google Maps. He says people are using tools like Google Maps to plot text, images, video, sounds, and even people to the Internet.

Since Google released its mapping program in 2005, Hanke says, there are over 50,000 mashed-ups of Google Maps. There are Google Maps for finding real estate, Yelp reviews, and people who have embedded photos in Google Map precisely where the pictures were taken.

The result of this data being created and made available could herald a new Web 3.0 era for the Internet, Hanke says. Others call it the GeoWeb (geospatial Web), a term used to describe the marriage of geographic specific data with either Web content or services.

Seeds of a GeoWeb trend, says Jerry Paffendorf cofounder of Wello Horld, can be spotted with service such as Twittervision. This service plots where short text messages sent to Twittervision are being sent from on a Google Map interface. The result is dynamic Google Map with text bubbles popping up constantly from all over the world plotting the origin of the latest Twittervision post.

Other services such as Panoramio allow you to link images and text to specific geographic locations in Google Maps and Google Earth. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum used this technology to annotate the Darfur genocide with pictures and text embedded in Google Earth.

Another GeoWeb service Dodgeball allows you to send email or SMS text messages to friends or other Dodgeball users who you may not know nearby. Dodgeball facilitates the communication between parties and connects both them for a potential in person meet using SMS text messages.

It's only a matter of time before someone creates a search engine that can scour the Web and arrange search results based on location and not only relevance, says Kevin Rose, founder and chief architect of Digg. Rose is beta testing a GeoWeb service called Pownce which lets friends share short messages, pictures, movies, links, and events. Rose sees Pownce as useful to people of like interests to meet up online or offline creating micro social networks.

Right now however there is a dearth of content on the Internet that has been GeoTagged, enabling it to be found by search engines, says Gur Kim Chi, software architect, Microsoft Virtual Earth. But that is slowly changing.

At the photo sharing Website Flickr you can GeoTag your images yourself. When you put an image in edit mode a link labeled "Place this photo on a map" allows you to embed location data to the image. Sound like too much work? The Ricoh 500SE digital camera comes with a built-in GPS receiver that embeds longitude and latitude information into each photo you take.

Interested in learning how to GeoTag your images? PC World photo expert Dave Johnson can show you how.

Two organizations, the Wild Sanctuary and Freesound project, have begun GeoTagging license-free sounds. Hanke says Google has begun to try to index all GeoTagged content on the Web. So far, he says, Google has cataloged several million pieces of content.

Perhaps soon, Chi says, instead of turning to a search engine first to learn about a destination, you'll visit via a map and find out all you need to know. That might include the people you may like to meet, shops, restaurants, local music, and a local map of hiking trails.

The panelist spoke at the MIT's Emerging Technology conference.

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Tom Spring

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