A quick announcement, that we’ve been showing off at Where 2.0: OpenGeo is building GeoServer 1.7.0 to be automatically crawlable by Google’s Geo Search. David and Arne have been working on trunk, and we’ve stood up a working prototype at http://geosearch.opengeo.org/geosearch/rest/. This has been crawled by Google’s crawler, and is now findable from Google Maps or Google Earth. The dataset we’re standing up is Benzo(a)pyrene emission levels around the Great Lakes region, so now you can search for those levels directly on the places in the PostGIS database, like ‘Benzo(a)pyrene Carbit Paint’. That link shows the search results on Google Maps, with the blue marker at the top of the list containing data coming straight from GeoServer. You can also constrain the search to just geosearch.opengeo.org and browse through the results. Try clicking on the various links, which will take you to visualizing the whole dataset in google earth, using GeoServer’s traditional KML output, or you can click on the glc:glin_benzo link to see the KML in Google Maps.

Though it’s not incredibly flashy, this feature to me is one of the most exciting things to come in awhile.  It speaks to the future of the geospatial web, where your data is just available on a variety of platforms.  Instead of making a specific mapping application and putting some metadata on it, your geospatial data - the actual data - is crawlable and available on the geospatial web.  Our dream is that GeoServer is like Apache for the geospatial web, the standard open source way to get your information on the web.   Google and others can then crawl and figure out better and better ways to return and rank the results.

At Where 2.0 John Hanke and Jack Dangermond just announced that ESRI ArcGIS Server 9.3 will also support all content being crawlable, which is great to see as well, to get all the people who already have their server set up to easily expose their data to the geospatial web.  Though Jack seemed to almost gloss over that fact, he was eager to get to the point that these are real services that offer real GIS analysis.  John twice had to bring it back to the availability of this data to be easily found and used by other people in new ways, which to me is the much bigger point, that anyone will be able to do new analysis, even if they aren’t ‘GIS Experts’.  The geospatial web is not about the GIS analysis (though it’s an interesting aspect for sure), it’s about getting many more eyeballs on the problems facing us today.  GeoServer and ArcGIS Server 9.3 will both be great ways to open up vast amounts of existing geospatial data to be found and used by everyone, to be combined and reused in ever more interesting ways.