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Internet gets mapped

Tools for navigating the Web have been hot items, but tools for navigating the real world are even hotter.

Tools for navigating the Web have been hot commodities, but tools for navigating the real world are even hotter, with three companies just this week announcing map services on their Web sites.

In a new twist, Argus Technologies opened its MapGuide site that lets visitors not only view geographical maps but add their own hyperlinked content, according to the company. The maps are accessible only with a browser plug-in, available from the site as a free download.

For example, a New York City resident can find her business on the city map and post a notice about an upcoming sale or a link to the company Web site. Argus is licensing the MapGuide technology, which includes the viewer plug-in, plus server and authoring software for organizations looking to create their own maps for public or private use. Developers can define their own security parameters to limit both read and write privileges for the maps they create.

ESRI also announced an Internet map server. The company's MapObjects Internet Map Server lets software developers use a variety of Internet tools including Java and ActiveX components to build and serve their own interactive maps on the Internet. The company did not announce prices for its MabObjects Internet Map Server.

And although it's not the real world, NetCarta has placed its WebMap Library online, with maps of more than 20,000 Web sites. The maps are visual representations of the structure and content of sites, including the text, images, audio, and video. They are designed to help users find information more quickly on sites with multiple pages. NetCarta WebMaps can be viewed only with CyberPilot, a browser plug-in available from the company for $14.95.

To track the popularity of its WebMaps, NetCarta has also today announced it would integrate its products with Net.Genesis' Net.Analysis usage statistic software.

The integration works both ways: Webmasters will be able to gauge how many people are actually using their WebMaps, while Webmasters already using Net.Genesis analysis tools will be able to use NetCarta technology to visualize their visitors' actual navigation.

This week's three mapping introductions follow the announcement of mapping services from both the Excite and Lycos search engine sites. Both companies are trying to expand their repertoire of search services to let users look for real geographical locations on their sites.