Is Free Enough For ESRI to Gain Web Mapping Traction?

Adam DuVander, July 31st, 2009

ESRI ArcGIS JavaScriptESRI has matched the price Google, Yahoo and other mapping providers have been charging for their APIs. The leading GIS company made its JavaScript API (our ESRI JavaScript API profile) completely free. Now the question is: will anyone care?

Though not much of a player in the geoweb, ESRI has been a mainstay of GIS circles for decades. Its software is used in hundreds of government offices and its Shapefile specification was even adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2007.

ESRI web map of Portland

Now its web product seeks to grab developers of new, web-based geographical applications. ESRI President Jack Dangermond sees this as an opportunity for his company:

“I see the GeoWeb as driving change that is beneficial for both users and creators of geospatial information. We’ll see a whole new creative group of people take these APIs and create new, interesting approaches to mapping. A powerful new generation of Web maps will proliferate and become commonplace to Web users.”

ESRI announced the platform a year ago, but it was only available to users of its ArcGIS Server software. Now ESRI is offering developers of noncommercial applications a chance to receive the same without needing to run a server. Restricting for-profit ventures in API terms of service is common, though rarely enforced.

For current ESRI users, the API is certainly useful. As the company pointed out in its press release, city governments could have internal and citizen-facing versions using the same data.

It’s not as clear for those not already an ESRI shop what it provides over Google, Yahoo or any other mapping provider. However, the most common criticism of ESRI has now been answered. You can use their maps for free. Now, will you?

Hat tip: EAGLE Technology

Tags: Mapping
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6 Responses to “Is Free Enough For ESRI to Gain Web Mapping Traction?”

July 31st, 2009
at 7:35 am
Comment by: AndrewR

Although I am not sure what thier API offers, the one thing that ESRI has which the others dont is co-ordinate transforms-

In an online sense, this might allow aggregation of historical/previously unusable data that was not necessarily stored using the world projection system

August 1st, 2009
at 4:09 pm
Comment by: Morten

Also worth noting is that more or less the same API is available for Flex and Silverlight as well (same terms). They are also much more flexible with regard to what basemap you want (if any), and what projection you want to display your map in.

September 22nd, 2009
at 12:55 am
Comment by: ESRI’s New Web Mapping APIs Site Is Full of Goodies

[...] we previously covered back in late July, ESRI has made its JavaScript API free in an effort to gain more momentum with developers. [...]

September 30th, 2009
at 1:44 am
Comment by: Recovery.gov Shows U.S. Stimulus Dollars as Map Mashup

[...] all levels of government, so it’s not surprising to see it on a .gov site. Though it is courting the mainstream mashup developers, ESRI’s biggest advantage versus Google Maps and other mapping providers is that ESRI is seen [...]

August 23rd, 2010
at 8:31 am
Comment by: Geo Grandfather ESRI Makes Strides on the Web

[...] ESRI mapping APIs, which are freely available, differentiate themselves from the plethora of consumer focused mapping APIs out there in their [...]

August 27th, 2010
at 9:21 am
Comment by: Geo Grandfather ESRI Makes Strides on the Web | Phil Leggetter - Software Consultant

[...] ESRI mapping APIs, which are freely available, differentiate themselves from the plethora of consumer focused mapping APIs out there in their [...]

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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.