Let’s step back a little in time. Remember the dot com boom in the 90’s, when the Internet went from being a tool only known to academics to ubiquity. We all began feverishly buying computers, and installing Web browsers to access network based applications. Financially it was a boom and bust period, but the new paradigm that was the Internet was here to stay. The world of GIS was then a world filled with desktop nerds working with ArcInfo, ArcMap and the like. With Esri getting wind of this new shift to networked computing the IMS products were released; we remember fondly MapObjects IMS and ArcIMS. Using the Internet we began to be able to build networked GIS apps which allowed developers to share with everybody interactive maps.
Exciting times indeed. But for those developing Internet GIS apps there were two major frustrations:
1) Geo-data was hard to find; in particular base maps.
2) There were no good API’s or tools for developers to use. Many older developers remember well building Internet GIS applications from scratch in Flash; cool output which took an age to build. For those unfamiliar with API’s, these are the building blocks for developing applications, they make the process easier. In the same way as constructing a car is the process of combining pre-built components; wheels, engine etc, this is the same process developers walk through to build an application. Imagine how long and painful car making would be if you had to build every component – wheel, engine – from scratch!