I’ve nothing against the French, being half Breton myself, along with a lot of other Celtic ancestors. This comes down to a matter of scale, however, that I doubt the French government will be able to handle.

When Google launched Google Earth, it was already operating tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of its own specially designed servers, in farms all over the world. Earth was just another big chunk of searchable data to add to the collection. The biggest part of the job was designing the GUI.

La Belle, for all her industry and investment, does not possess, nor is she likely ever to possess, the brute computing power that Google can bring to bear on just about anything it pleases. The condition of the site is illustrative: constantly down due to excessive traffic. When you provide a service to the Net, you’re providing it to literally billions of potential users… and when you provide one as provocative (in terms of curiosity) as this, you have to plan for simultaneous servicing of millions of hits/day, if not /hour.

Who is going to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars to build that much computing capacity, for a service that Google can easily duplicate by simply making the project a priority for a few weeks or months? Answer: only people interested in financial suicide. We’re not looking at proprietary technology here, but rather data that’s there for the picking. Yes, the French have probably used data from their own satellites, but there are millions of high-res satshots available to anyone who wants to spend the money and political clout to access them.

GeoPortal is an interesting proof of concept, and also proof of interest. Presumably the French government has now got a distributed computing capacity that could be put to good use. I suggest doing so, rather than trying to improve on a system with which it can’t begin to compete – for reasons of scalability – to begin with. I don’t quite get what it was thinking.

[tags]google,google earth,computing power,geoportal,satellite data[/tags]