The display of maps and data within an interactive framework is becoming more prevalent online. I'm thinking beyond merely the ability to pan/zoom/control layers, but more along the lines of displaying spatial and non-spatial data, together, in a unique format (e.g. animated charts).

For example, this website goes beyond mapping and presents spatial data as a learning and exploration tool with graphical data summaries, text summaries, animations, etc.

What are some good examples of well-designed interactive maps using modern technologies, and what are the advantages/disadvantages of these tools? What technologies should be avoided?


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This is a very dynamic and exciting period for interactive data and map applications on the Web. This great dynamism is driven (but to some extent also drives) by the numerous innovations and trends that are currently undergoing within the complex Web scenario (users, industry, standards, innovation...). Very briefly:

  1. Browsers are getting more and more capable, with JavaScript interpreters becoming faster and HTML5 technologies getting more widely adopted.

  2. To some extent, different browser vendors are finally converging more towards a wide adoption of Web Standards. A relevant example for data and mapping visualizations is SVG that, although around as a Web standard since 1999, lacked until recently wide adoption, because of Internet Explorer not supporting it until version 9.

The consequences of this are that JavaScript is becoming central to building today's Web applications and functionality is moving from the server to the client wilts the 2 are becoming more decoupled with the rise of REST interfaces. This is well exemplified, for example, in the rise of so many JavaScript MVC frameworks or even more by the huge proliferation of Open Source JavaScript libraries and projects on well known code repository sites such as GitHub or BitBucket.

If JavaSript (and HTML5) is the big winner, Flash is the loser. You can still find Flash applications around the Web (your example is a beautifully designed interactive Flash application), but its technology is clearly PAST.

Companies that are doing some serious JavaScript data-map Web visualizations:

  • vizzuality. These guys from Spain are amazing. There interactive visualizations are stunning. They also have a Web product called cartodb that lets you upload data to a PostGIS server and create awesome visualizations. And look out also their HTML5 mapping experiments, to have an idea of where the technology is heading.

  • MapBox is another awesome company that drives a lot of innovation in the Web mapping-data visualization field. Tilemill, in particular, based on mapnik and JavaScript and Web technologies, is something ESRI would have never had the creativity to invent.

  • Stamen, not my personal favorite, but still very good and full of innovative ideas.

About and around d3.js:

Other great JavaScript technologies:

  • Kartograph. Simply beautiful maps and visualizations.

  • OpenLayers. Years ago, when flash was still strong, it opened the road to Open Source JavaScript mapping.

  • Leaflet. One cannot avoid mentioning this library for its huge following among today's Web designers and programmers.

And Web examples:


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