Finally overcame all my prejudice and added the Google Geographic Search to the World Wind PlaceFinder via the REST API. It is all quite nice and simple to interface and highlights the theme of World Wind as a geographic data browser, to stand shoulder to shoulder with all the html-browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari and oh-so-notorious Internet Explorer. In the same spirit it should offer equal footing for all the major players to have a presence, we don't think twice about having MSDN, Yahoo Movies and Google Search open in tabs next to each other. An independent geographic browser should offer similar visibility and democracy to those willing to publish data in an understandable format. FlashEarth and OpenLayers demonstrate this bringing together with the imagery as well as the search API, but I guess World Wind will never be able to publicly do the same due to legal wrangles.
A geographic browser should allow server side(image servers/feature search/routing/traffic) applications as well as client side extensions(scripts/plugins/xml layers/movie making) and World Wind to most extent fits the bill. The .NET version is the Firefox of the geobrowsers, with all features thrown in but left open to change(or is it SeaMonkey), while the Java version is Gecko, a barebones multi-platform geographic data rendering engine that you can drop in where you wish.
Now coming to the head-off between the 3 geographic search API's , having them side by side like that is really neat for a comparison. In my personal opinion Google allows the best free-form entry of addresses , producing valid and very accurate results. Here are a few things I tried:
- Incomplete entry - Try calif instead of California , Google reads your mind and delivers.
- Misspelling - Google does a spell check and suggested correction
- Different address format - 182 Murray Street, Tanunda S.A. 5352 ends up in USA in VE but in the place I wanted in Google (possibly because they are tracking my IP, time to get paranoid later).
- Post Office accuracy - Google consistently located post offices when supplied just town names, where as Virtual Earth picked a random spot in the town.
Not that I am biased , just do your own tests and see which placefinder gets you what you want, another excuse to try new World Wind where you can find them all side by side.