It was already dead. In some senses, anyway.
Google announced a couple of days ago that they’re advancing into the business of GPS guided navigation, rather than staying with their widely popular offering of mapping and positioning only. This announcement affected the rest of the industry immediately, and some of the industry leaders in the area have quickly taken a hit on their share value.
As usual, Slashdot caught up on the news and asked the question: Will Google and Android kill standalone GPS?
Let me point out that the way the facts were covered by Slashdot was quite misguided. Google may be giving a hand to change the industry dynamics a bit faster, but both Garmin and TomTom, the companies which reportedly had an impact in their share value, have phone-based offerings of their own, so it’s not like Google suddenly had an idea for creating a phone-based navigation software which will replace every other offering. The world is slowly converging towards a multi-purpose device for quite a while, and these multi-purpose devices are putting GPSes in the hands of people that in many cases never considered buying a GPS.
The real reason why these companies are taking a hit in their shares now is because Google announced it will offer for free something that these companies charge quality money for at the moment, being it in a standalone GPS or not.
This post is not about what you think it is, unfortunately. I actually do hope to go to the Easter Island at some point, but this post is about a short story which involves geohash.org, Groundspeak (from geocaching.com), and very very poor minded behavior.
So, before anything else, it’s important to understand what geohash.org is. As announced when the service was launched (also as a post on Groundspeak’s own forum), geohash.org offers short URLs which encode a latitude/longitude pair, so that referencing them in emails, forums, and websites is more convenient, and that’s pretty much it.
Are you? I’m not entirely sure I am, even though I think about this a lot.
If you’re of the tech-savvy kind, you’re certainly aware of the great capabilities that the new mobile phone generation is bringing: Internet connection, a quite decent browser, GPS, camera, etc. But, really.. did you stop to think about what’s going on? This phone generation is still relatively expensive today, but they’re here to stay, and in just a few years, they’ll be commonplace.
Now, let’s forget about ourselves for a moment, and think about what mass adoption of a quite capable generic computer with full internet connectivity 24h a day being carried with its owner means for the world? Remember, the number of mobile phone users in the world is several times superior to the number of computers, and most of the computers are in the so called first world.
This implies that not only will everyone have access to the world in their pockets, which is already quite amazing by itself, but that a large number of people will have access to the Internet at all for the first time with their mobiles. Besides the several social impacts that these changes will bring, there are also many other interesting consequences. As simple examples, the most common client to many web services will be mobile phones, and many people will learn to use a touch screen interface of the mobile to interact with the world before ever having used a desktop computer for that.
I find that amazing, and this is happening right now, in front of our eyes.
Some improvements to geohash.org were made. Some of them were
motivated by a conversation with Rodrigo Stulzer.
- Support for geocoding addresses (city names, whatever). E.g. http://geohash.org/?q=21 Millbank, London
- Support for moving the Geohash marker in the embedded map, so that modifying the position visually is easier.
- Support for providing a “name” to Geohashes, by appending a colon and the name, in a nice format. E.g. http://geohash.org/c216ne:Mt_Hood
- Provided a bookmark to get a Geohash while in Google Maps.
- Provided a Google Maps Mapplet. When enabled, it adds a Geohash marker identifying the Geohash position in Google Maps, and it may be moved around. Here is a screenshot:
Check out the Tips & Tricks page for details on these features.
After about one year writing this service in my spare time, it’s finally out.
geohash.org offers short URLs which encode a latitude/longitude pair, so that referencing them in emails, forums, and websites is more convenient.
Geohashes offer properties like arbitrary precision, similar prefixes for nearby positions, and the possibility of gradually removing characters from the end of the code to reduce its size (and gradually lose precision). I’ve put the algorithm created in the public domain. Some details may be seen in the Wikipedia article about it (hopefully that’ll help establishing prior art, and prevent Microsoft from patenting it).
To obtain the Geohash, the user provides latitude and longitude coordinates in a single input box (most commonly used formats for latitude and longitude pairs are accepted), and performs the request.
Besides showing the latitude and longitude corresponding to the given Geohash, users who navigate to a Geohash at geohash.org are also presented with an embedded map, and may download a GPX file, or transfer the waypoint directly to certain GPS receivers. Links are also provided to external sites that may provide further details around the specified location.
My brother Diogo is in town! Good to see him after so much time.
PyCon 2007 was fantastic. It was great to meet everyone there, and we had two awesome sprinting weeks around it.
I’ve recently visited a confluence with a good friend of mine. Kayaks, paddling, walking, driving, swimming, aslphalt, sand, water, grass.. it was awesome.
It looks like Bazaar tags are now really coming, so I’m doing some work on svn2bzr again. Hopefully this time I’ll really migrate some projects over.
Version 1.9 of editmoin was released.
Some work in Smart is coming in the upcoming weeks.
Hopefully I’ll be able to speak more openly about (some of the) interesting things I’ve been working on in the near future.
Continuing my put-those-bits-out-of-your-hard-drive campaign, I’ve released a patched version of GPSBabel with support for input and output of waypoints, tracks and routes in the binary file format of GPS TrackMaker.
The patch was written six months ago (sorry ). I just had to port it over to a recent version of GPSBabel.
The original reason for the patch is that there is quite a good amount of information under that format for Brazil, and GPSBabel is able to deliver information directly to some brands of GPS devices. Hopefully this will get applied upstream soon.