Members of the general public can now indicate the location of a meeting place to their friends and relations using Map-Portal Sdn Bhd’s Map2U general purpose, online vector mapping application, which the company launched as a free public service last week.
Users first obtain the URL of the venue on Map-Portal’s vector map at www.map2u.net and include it in an e-mail, SMS, or instant message, and invite recipients to access the link through their web browser and call up the map indicating the location of the venue such as a restaurant, shopping centre, road, public park, etc. Map-Portal also plans to roll out a range of map-related Weblink services to paying business clients within the next month or so. Over the past six months, Map-Portal has been converting its hitherto proprietary vector mapping system to one based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) open standards.
When In.Tech last reported on Map-Portal, users had to download and install its proprietary map viewer from the site and thereafter they had to use the viewer, instead of a regular Web browser to browse the vector maps. Map-Portal lets users search on all objects by name, by exact match on a name or by displaying all objects according to type – schools, hotels, embassies, restaurants, shopping centres, roads, rivers, lakes or fields. Unlike raster graphics like JPEG, TIFF and Bitmap files which are based on pixels and are relatively large and take a long time to download especially over narrowband dialup connections, vector graphics comprise text information describing an image and mathematical formulas for manipulating them and they thus typically occupy tens, rather than hundreds or thousands of bytes and once downloaded, users can zoom in and out on features of that map section without any more data transfer until they need another map section.
Moreover, embedded mathematics enables vector graphics images to regenerate themselves as the user zooms in and thus maintains its continuous and smooth appearance, while raster images tend to pixelate (appear blocky) as the user zooms in. SVG images can be compressed to one-third their size without any loss in quality. Leng demonstrated he could download vector map sections over a dialup link in under one minute even though, due to poor network conditions, the modem had connected at 28.8Kbps which was half its 56Kbps maximum speed. Map-Portal’s architecture comprises a repository containing the map data with a link layer above it providing simple link services like Web-to-map and map-to-Web connectivity. Above it currently sits applications like Map2U and future possibilities could include a host of customer-specific applications – each applying links in different contexts – and Map-Portal will work with applications developers with domain knowledge in their specific industries or fields of expertise.