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February 5, 2010

MyTopo topographic maps

Filed under: Mapping — mtbguru @ 7:48 am

The topographic map type you can select on MTBGuru uses map data freely available and served up by Microsoft Research Maps (MSR Maps), the former Terraserver. The data originates from the USGS, is in the US public domain and the fact that it is readily available online is a great service by both the US government and MSR Maps. In fact, in most other countries there is hardly any free (both in the copyright and the political sense) topographic map data available.

The USGS data is recently now also accessible and served through an API by mapping company MyTopo.com. MyTopo.com has its own rendering of the map data, featuring generally nicer looking map tiles and using more recently updated data. So we thought it would be a good idea to offer it as a new map type on MTBGuru’s pages. You can check out the difference in the screenshots below; first, the MSR Maps/Terraserver map:

MSR topo map

And this is the MyTopo version:

MyTopo map
(Quite a bit easier on the eyes and the shading gives a nice perception of depth.)

Both MSR Topo and MyTopo will be available as a map type for the time being – but over time we may want to phase out the former altogether. The MyTopo maps come with a smaller number of zoom levels though but that doesn’t seem to be much of a drawback (it’s basically only the highly zoomed out levels which are missing).

Since we’re talking USGS data, topographic data for other countries generally still won’t be available – however, in this regard MyTopo does offer another fine improvement: it additionally offers map data from Canada (originating from NRCan):

Topo maps Canada

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