April 25, 2008

TOPO! Explorer Public Beta is Live :: What to Expect and What's Next

Last night at midnight - the switch was thrown and National Geographic's national recreation database was born. As of 10:00am this morning we've loaded over 37,000 miles of trail and witnessed dozens sign up for their free accounts. To get everyone up-to-speed on what you can do today and what to expect over the next month we've created this brief article.

Welcome to TOPO! Explorer :: What to Expect

Until May 30th, we are in beta. Which means that not all planned functionality is live, yet.. However, by logging in today you can:

* Register for your free user account, and create your member profile.
* Explore our nationwide map images including our new Hybrid layer.
* Browse Trip Files, plus post reviews, comments, and trip reports.
* Visit the forums and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts.
* Apply to become a beta tester and help us refine future features

What's Next?

Over the next month we will be releasing new features almost daily, posting tons of content, building out how-tos, and come May 30th providing you an entirely new way to get maps.

Our goal is to build ::the:: portal for outdoor enthusiasts to find, share, and discuss where to go. We hope that by making it easy find recreation opportunities that it encourages more people to get outdoors.

We're doing things a bit different with TOPO! Explorer. First of all, we're making it free. You don't need a subscription to browse the maps or find recreational information nor do you need to buy a software application to later post your own files, connect to a GPS, or create mashups. Instead we've enabled all functions to take place either freely on the website itself, or through the forthcoming TOPO! Explorer application which will be available for free download on June 2nd.

So how does National Geographic generate revenue? ... We sell maps and by the end of May, users will have several options to purchase maps based upon their needs:

1. Purchase TOPO! State Series Products. If you are an avid outdoor enthusiast that recreates throughout your State, there is no better value than picking up a complete State of detailed topographic maps. In most cases you will get 1000's of real USGS quads for approximately $100. Used in conjunction with the new free TOPO! Explorer website and application you have access to updated trails, roads, recreational points of interest - plus you can print, export to GPS, and share your own creations.

2. Purchase Weekend Explorer Products. If you mainly recreate around your local metro area, Weekend Explorer is the right package for you. It contains hundreds of USGS quads for approximately $30. Just like State Series, when used in conjunction with the TOPO! Explorer application you get access to the detailed topos, plus all the rich recreation content from the web community.

3. Purchase TOPO! Explorer or Explorer Deluxe Retail Packs. Coming May 30th to retail stores, is TOPO! Explorer and Explorer Deluxe. Unlike any other map product - these two boxes give you the flexibility to pick-and-choose the exact maps ala cart. Both kits contain (25) map download credits, which can be used on the TOPO! Explorer website to get the specific topographic maps and aerial imagery you need. This is ideal for someone who recreates occasionally, or recreates throughout the country and needs flexibility. It's also appealing to existing TOPO! State Series and Weekend Explorer users that want to add a few maps outside of their current map sets. TOPO! Explorer sells for $24.95 and the Deluxe Edition (which contains intermediate detail USGS 1:100,000 scale maps for entire United States + 25 map credits) sells for $49.95.

For those that feel lucky, be sure to purchase TOPO! Explorer or Explorer Deluxe from your favorite retailer during the month of June, as one out of ten retail kits sold will activate double the map credits!

So don't hesitate - visit beta.topo.com today and sign up for your free account. Roll up those sleeves and help make this outdoor community great. Check back to Contours next Wednesday for an update on new TOPO! Explorer features and useful tips!


david nash said...

We will use this for all our mountain bike hawaii clinics and Colorado mountain bike clinics. www.ripstoke.com

Anonymous said...

Does this mean the regular TOPO! application that comes with the state and weekend products will no longer be enhanced?

I would love to have the improved interface of TOPO! Explorer added to regular TOPO! (The simple things like panning the map are so much nicer!)

I prefer the regular TOPO! application because the maps load much faster off my hard drive, not to mention I can access the maps wherever I am, even if I do not have access to the Internet.

Thank you!

Eric Riback said...

TOPO! Explorer will be our development platform going forward. There are a few features in TOPO! 4.x that are not yet in TOPO! Explorer, but we are working on it. The TOPO! Explorer application is free and you can access the same maps you own on CD by registering your serial # on the topo.com site. As you explore your state the maps will stream in and be saved to your hard drive. The online environment forced us to use a separate data format which is why you need to use the downloaded maps with the TOPO! Explorer appplication. But it's all free to owners of TOPO! State Series and Weekend Explorer. Details here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric, thanks for the response.

I recently purchased a Weekend Explorer product and have use it with both the included 4.x software as well as the new TOPO! Explorer. I have a very fast Internet connection, but I was frustrated with the slowness of TOPO! Explorer. The web page you referenced mentions the maps are cached on my hard drive, which to me means they can be deleted when some threshold is met. Can you confirm or deny that maps may be evicted from the cache?

This page states that SuperQuads have the option to be downloaded "Now" or "When I Zoom to Them". Can this be enabled for State Series and Weekend Explorer products?

I would be much more inclined to use TOPO! Explorer if the maps were pre-downloaded to my hard drive and I knew they were going to stay there. In other words, if it were faster and I could always use it offline.