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The Geospatial Web or Geoweb is a relatively new term that implies the merging of geographical (location-based) information with the abstract information that currently dominates the Internet. This would create an environment where one could search for things based on location instead of by keyword only – i.e. “What is Here?”.

The concept of a Geospatial Web may have first been introduced by Dr. Charles Herring in his US DoD paper, An Architecture of Cyberspace: Spatialization of the Internet, 1994, U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (40°8′58.9″N 88°16′22.7″W / 40.149694°N 88.272972°W / 40.149694; -88.272972 (U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory)). Dr. Herring proposed that the problem of defining the physical domain in a computer or cyber-infrastructure, providing real time and appropriate fidelity, required a cyber-spatial reference or index combining both Internet Addressing and Hierarchical Spatial Addressing. As such, the Geoweb would be characterized by the self synchronization of network addressing, time and location. The Geoweb would allow location to be used to self organize all geospatially referenced data available through the Internet.

Another early reference to the concept of the Geoweb is the Genasys Spatial Web Broker. Development of this capability began in 1994 and was officially announced in 1996. This product was designed to allow any web developer to integrate GIS functions, such as routing, into portal applications, e-government applications, and e-business applications.

The interest in a Geoweb has been advanced by new technologies, concepts and products. Virtual globes such as Google Earth and NASA World Wind as well as mapping websites such as Google Maps, Live Search Maps and Yahoo! Maps have been major factors in raising awareness towards the importance of geography and location as a means to index information. The increase in advanced web development methods such as Ajax are providing inspiration to move GIS (Geographical Information Systems) into the web.

The capacity of Geospatial Web would be similar to Google Search and likely provide similar value. It is conceived that the Geospatial Web will present as a visual medium and geospatial platform for data self-organization, discovery and use. Capabilities that allow every Internet user to post to this flow of information and anyone to poll or pull the information will lead to a new commons, media or marketplace for publication, trade and commoditization of information.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have long been the domain of experienced, trained professionals and have been used by large organizations such as governments or municipalities. The geoweb also promises to make geographical information much more ubiquitous, opening geoinformation up to the mass market.

Geographic Information Retrieval (GIR) has emerged as an academic community interested in technical aspects of helping people find information about places. In order to make information accessible from geographically oriented applications, coordinate metadata must be created via some form of geocoding or geoparsing process. After obtaining geographic coordinates, they must be indexed in useful ways that allow people to interact with the non-geographic nature of the content, e.g. viewing photographs or keyword searching.

Some see the goal of the Geoweb to be the creation of fully immersive digital environments, or virtual reality that mirror our own reality. This would have the effect of greatly improving our understanding of the world and its processes, allowing us to better manage our resources, find nearby services, meet people, and have fun.

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