I read Jim Fee's blog to get a GIS reality check. He challenges assumptions and points out the color of the Kool-Aid.
So, he's right: Esri's ArcGIS Online is not a geospatial content management system. Why not? He says:
- It doesn’t support open standards let alone other formats.
- There is no geneology of data.
- There is no lifecycle to the product.
By that definition, it's not an online CMS.
But the ArcGIS platform certainly is a geospatial content management system, by any valid definition. and there are good reasons why GIS professionals (I mean, people trained in geospatial content creation, management, and presentation) buy into Esri's proprietary formats and "$10,000 client".
It's because our work is more complex than simply creating Google My Maps. For more complex geospatial work, GIS product developers and enterprise managers have told me time and again that open source doesn't always make economic sense for their bottom line.
When Esri has marketed ArcGIS Online before now, they've emphasized the web map, not "online geospatial content management". You don't have to fall off a turnip truck to appreciate what Esri has done for us in the web map arena. GIS professionals (I mean, cartographers, geographers, geo-statistical analysts, crime analysts who produce location-based intelligence, health professionals using geospatial analysis to see trends) can now publish and share our data in maps on the Web, without hiring a programmer. We couldn't do that a couple of years ago.
Our data isn't in CSV files or Fusion Tables, and we don't share it by clicking on the web map to set pushpins. Our data is in our geospatial content management systems made up of geospatial databases, GIS servers, and applications servers. We can hire Esri to integrate all that into a geospatial content management system. Or we can hire other systems integrators to do it from scratch, using open source.
So, maybe it's premature to call ArcGIS Online an online geospatial CMS. But that, too, is just around the corner for organizations that I've worked with. For good reasons, most of them use the ArcGIS platform to create, manage, and present their geospatial data. Most of them are now talking seriously about moving their entire geospatial enterprise into the Esri cloud. Call it ArcGIS Online.