GeoCommons is a new mapping site that allows members to use a variety of datasets to create their own maps. It provides the free geodata, a map builder tool,the ability to create heat maps, and a map hosting site. An API will be available shortly. GeoCommons comes from FortiusOne, a Washington, D.C. company. The public Beta is going to be released Monday, May 28th, at Where 2.0‘s launchpad.
When building a map you can use one of the 1500 data sets (with 2 billion data attributes) that they have made freely available. The data sets vary widely and include things like “Identity Theft 2006″, “Coral Reef Bleaching – Worldwide”, “Starbucks Locations – Worldwide”, and “HAZUS – Seattle, WA – Resident Demographics”. As you can see below, data can be viewed in a tabular format prior to loading it onto a map. Data sets can be combined together so that you can see “The Prices of Living in NYC & SF” and “Barack vs. Clinton – Show Me the Money! ” — it seems to me that Barack has more widespread support.
(Image: an example data set with tabular report)
You can also upload your own data. GeoCommons accepts KML, KMZ or Shapefile formats. You can download data sets in KML only. In their help files they point to a number of KML converters (in case you have or want data in a different format). Uploaded data is available publicly and is licensed as Creative Commons Share Alike – Attribution license. In the future they will allow private data and charge a fee. Much like Ning — they only charge you if you are being selfish. in time I think that they will become a marketplace for geodata (much like Pushpin is also attempting to do). If GeoCommons pursues this route it could be a great source of revenue for them.
You can delete your uploaded data at any time. You can do this regardless of how many people are using your data (in time you will be warned . I am torn on how situations like this should be handled. On the one hand it is the member’s data, but on the other you have made it publicly available. I think many people will download crucial data sets to guard against this eventuality.
GeoCommons is built on Google Maps’ platform. The killer UI feature is heat maps. This sexy looking feature allows for a smooth view of data. Their FAQ explains how it generates the heat maps:
The heat map generates color based on the values, or attributes, attached to different points (or lines or polygons as the case may be) in the map viewer window. So, the heat map indicates which points in view have relatively higher values and are closer together. Cool purples and blues indicate those places with fewer data points and lower values, while hot reds and yellows show where you can find concentrations of higher attribute values.
FortiusOne was spun out of George Mason University. They just closed a Series B investment round of $5.45 million. In-Q-Tel, who funded Keyhole and @Last (both acquired by Google), was involved in the round.
It’s not surprising to see that KML is their primary format (even aside from their VC heritage). KML is becoming the geolanguage of the web. Google’s geoindex (Radar post) is going to become more important in time. As more geodata is only accessible in this format Microsoft, Yahoo!, Mapquest, and other players in this space will have to accept and use the format if they want to be able to compete on index depth and breadth.
GeoCommons is like a Flickr/Swivel/YouTube/Scribd of geodata. Data is easily uploaded and freely shared between users. It can be tagged, rated, commented on and searched. Up till GeoCommons release geodata has been hard to find or unavailable. GeoCommons really levels the data playing field by gathering all of this data in one place for easy consumption, while still respecting the data owners.
This will be an interesting one to watch. Google Maps really opened up maps as a platform for web apps. Will GeoCommons do that for data? Up till now groups like WhoIsSick have kept their data on their own site with no way to share it. Platial has collected a lot of similar data, but has always focused on the maps and community building. I wonder if GeoCommons will become the way for private geo stewards to make money off their work.
(also see DirectionsMag for further coverage on GeoCommons)