"Competition is great for consumers, especially in the world of emerging technology. With graphics processors and memory becoming cheaper and cheaper, more applications that utilize these technologies are being developed.
Last year we saw several new applications that brought 3D imagery of the world to our desktop and several more are in the development stages. The most marketed of these, however not the first, was Google Earth, followed closely by NASA's open source solution, World Wind.
These applications allowed users to view already available imagery in a way that no other freely available application had done in a three-dimensional view.
Several years ago, Microsoft released a tool to browse satellite imagery. Terraserver, as it was called, made available imagery from a then recent declassification of the United States images by President Bill Clinton. Of course it was really Robert Gates, Director of Central Intelligence, who launched the CIA's openness program, which led to the declassification.
Since then, digital mapping has become more mainstream in both commercial and consumer products allowing for applications that varied from complex analysis of urbanization to better driving directions.
Sites such as MapBlast, MapQuest, Yahoo!Maps, and Google Maps began offering driving directions to the consumer showing detailed maps of the area. Eventually these services offered local information in addition to the maps, giving you locations of restaurants or retail shops in the vicinity of your destination.
It was not until Google Maps released the satellite data along with their mapping services did the focus shift to more three dimensional mapping. Until this point, satellite imagery was only available to the digital mapping community, the commercialization of which put a whole new perspective on geography. "