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16 April 2008, 14:23

Google releases KML map format

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On Monday, Google announced that the XML-based KML format for vector geodata has been released as an open standard under the control of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The OpenGIS KML Encoding Standard (OGC KML), as the standard is now officially called, is based on version 2.2 of the format originally developed by cartography firm Keyhole.

The open standard was reportedly made downward compatible in an "OGC Consensus Process". In addition to Google's most recent specifications, the OGC has added a model for geometric encoding and interpolation, a model for extensions for new applications, and – something less common in open standards – exact test criteria and test procedures for the verification of compliance. According to the OGC, the current version of the standard includes the most important latest specifications, such as the Geography Markup Language (GML), though only a few of its principles have been taken into consideration. It is therefore no wonder that the OGC says it is already working with Google on harmonization under the aegis of its Mass Market Geo Working Group (MMWG).

The release of KML as an open standard is probably intended as an additional incentive for users and developers to focus on this format and the main applications based on it, Google Maps and Google Earth. The University of Minnesota's open source Mapserver another popular software package, that is especially favoured by scientists, can handle KML data. Even Microsoft, Google's arch rival in the battle for top of the geo-application hill, has taught its map service, Virtual Earth, to import data in the KML format. However, because Virtual Earth only imports KML files, it cannot serve as a platform for the publication of cross-platform formatted data, within the community.


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