Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This is important

Listen up, this is important. If you've seen my WhereCampDC video "WMS is Dead", then you will know that what is commonly called web mapping is what I consider a chart or a static graphic plotting information along any arbitrary xy axis. In my view, this means projections aren't important so we might as well get on with our lives and use web mercator.

But what if we could have real interactive cartography, so that for any location at any scale we could view it using a carefully curated set of projections to preserve area and shape? I have a secret. Somewhere in my black heart is a tiny undernourished cartographic flame starved by nearly two decades of shite web mapping. This is the part where that flame goes, "Wooosh!" 

Two projects in my twitter feed showed up. The first is Scale Adaptive Web Maps, which changes the projection based on scale. It's pretty cool to watch the projections change while zooming, and hey there's the projection you can use to display OCONUS. Alaska and Hawaii thank you.

The second project is kartograph.js which posits a convincing argument for yet another mapping framework. I think the work speaks for itself.

However, the question that remains is "Does it scale?" At O'Reilly's StrataConf last week, Mano Marks and Chris Broadfoot presented work showing WebGL rendering features with 6 million vertices in the browser. When asked for a public demo, Mano said that it wasn't quite ready for release. Despite that, I'm optimistic that this may be a new way forward for interactive digital cartography.