Thursday, 1 June 2006

Cybertrack - 10

Quite the most comprehensive set of maps for this country that your hard-working columnist has stumbled on in many years of web surfing.
Right. That was the good part. This site used to be much, much, much more useful before commerce became the overriding factor. It’s not just the jumble of advertising, though that comes very close to drowning out the content. It’s not just that the site now doesn’t provide the same amount of free content it once did – but yes, it’s bloody irritating that a lot of the more detailed maps are now only available for a fee. (Lucky for me, I have some maps saved from back in the day, when you could click through to the taluka level.) I guess it’s also because, like Topsy, it just growed and growed, and no one seems to have been keeping a watch on how all the information fits together, and making it easily searchable. That said, there’s an enormous amount of good stuff on still, but you have to wander a bit, put up with the irritation of a very cluttered layout, annoying pop-ups, sometimes erratic spelling, and a few gaps. Some useful stuff for the traveller: a distance calculator for more important cities and towns, distance charts from the perspective of selected cities, linear road charts for routes, with point-to-point distances marked, all the national highway routes, train route maps (including special trains), even important waterways! There are also some trekking route maps, not much use for the actual trek, unless you buy the high-res versions, but enough to give you an overview. Likewise, there are basic metro maps, enough to get oriented within a city, but no fine detailing for free. Still worth the visit, yes, but if only they’d pay some attention to the info-design. Or Google Earth and the army of happy addicts who layer on information, landmarks and routes will put it out of business.

Published in the June 2006 edition of Outlook Traveller, in a column called Cybertrack

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