Thursday, October 16, 2008

OnionMap Looks Cool. But Is It Useful?

The Red Ferret Journal links to the coolest looking map website I've seen in a long time. OnionMap gives a great-looking 3-D overview of a number of cities, highlighting tourist attractions and showing hotels, restaurants, businesses, transportation, and local events. The cities are not complete yet but the tourist information seems good. 

Checking out my own home town of Chicago, I was a both impressed and disappointed by the completeness of the map. OnionMap only shows a few of the city's tallest historic buildings and some buildings are hidden behind taller ones because there doesn't seem to be a way to change the angle of the view. OnionMap does however give a surprisingly good overview of Chicago's downtown "El" train system and the 3-D view makes it easy to locate train stops.

But ultimately, all these features are fairly meager compared what you'd see on Google Maps. OnionMap's 3-D view gives you a good way of orienting yourself in relation to well-known landmarks. But Google's street view seems to make more sense as a tool for helping lost tourists and even locals find their way around. 

All-in-all, OnionMap seems like a great idea whose time came and went a couple of years ago. Today with Google Maps and its competitors being so richly featured, it's hard to see where OnionMap fits in as anything more than a pretty toy. But it sure is pretty.

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