Within the last few years, the convergence of satellite imagery, digital technology, and the world wide web has spawned a host of sophisticated online navigational applications. Perhaps the most significant development involves Google's relatively new map technology, which brings users Google Maps and Google Earth. Whereas Google Maps provides an online navigational resource, Google Earth is a free, fully downloadable software application that brings that literally brings the world to your desktop. A few minutes after downloading and installing Google Earth, we found ourselves amazed, surfing the globe from Seattle to Paris, zooming in from thousands of miles above the earth, checking out old haunts, and reeling in the years. Google Earth enables users to label key points, add extensive notes, and seamlessly integrate the power of the internet. There are more features than there is time to explore them all. Such an incredible tool is definitely a must.
Other useful "mapplications" include GeoURL and TerraServer-USA. GeoURL is an online service providing a "location-to-URL reverse directory." GeoURL enables users to "find URLs by their proximity to a given location." This is useful for bloggers, who may wish to rally together in meatspace. As of this posting, GeoURL lists over 217,658 sites. Click here to see GeoURL-listed addresses near the Perishable Press Headquarters. Although not nearly as robust as Google Earth, "the TerraServer-USA Web site is one of the world's largest online databases, providing free public access to a vast data store of maps and aerial photographs of the United States." Here is a 1996 satellite-view of my neighborhood via the TerraServer-USA database. Fascinating.
There are also several online mapplications providing website visitor tracking. Although free versions of these tools are available, they are typically limited in statistical scope, which theoretically encourages users to promptly upgrade to the full, "paid" versions. Right. Anyway, there are some prime aps available, including ClustrMaps and Frappr (404 link removed 2013/01/24). Whereas gVisit and ClustrMaps provide similar tracking services, Frappr is more of an online community through which users may create and share map-related information through digital maps, photo galleries, and chat rooms. Fine if you have the time to invest in all of that. Otherwise, nothing beats gVisit and ClustrMaps for free geographical visitor tracking. Although both of these services provide similar features, ClustrMaps apparently provides a greater degree of analytical insight than does gVisit. Both services involve pros and cons, and both are worth checking out.
Finally, for a different application of modern online map technology, check out National Geographic's MapMachine or even Wikimapia, a wiki-map hybrid inviting and enabling users to "describe the whole earth" by adding interesting geographical information. Well now, …if you have read this far and are still wondering what exactly "meatspace" is, follow this link and discover the truth.