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This blog is for spatial analysts be they professionals, student, academician or just curious about spatial technologies. Spatial technologies include Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Global Positioning Systems, mobile spatial devises, and other spatial related programs (i.e., Google Earth.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ArcGIS Online: A Rough Review

As discussed in the previous blog entry, ESRI has now introduced a new product, ArcGIS Online.
I have now registered for the free trial and started to explore the different options that this new online software has to offer.  I assume that many of you are also doing the same.

ArcGIS Online is a map server for companies, government agencies, educational institutions and consultants that wish to share their maps on the Internet.  In essence, ArcGIS Online is an upgrade/hybrid of their free software program ArcExplorer without embedded analysis tools.

ArcGIS is not full-blown cloud oriented GIS. Therefore, its name is somewhat deceiving.  I was expecting a a fully functional online GIS, but was disappointed.  The name of the product should be termed ArcGIS Online Map Server.

Although, It is being widely promoted by ESRI and others in the industry, I found it lackluster, clunky and does not ‘wow’ the user.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it has promise and the sharing feature is intriguing.  However,  it not a ‘revolution’ in the field of Geographic Information Science as ‘spun’ by ESRI.

There are several specific problems with this software:
-there is no freedom to change the colors in the maps
-the applications and tools seem to be difficult to access and install
-there is no ability to see the databases supporting the maps
-the user cannot make new thematic maps from the one served
-metadata is not easily accessible
-other usability issues (to be discussed in a forthcoming blog entry)

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest to 10 being the highest, I rank ArcGIS Online, a 6.

I would appreciate any comments from those that have used the trial version or the full-blown version of ArcGIS Online or on spatial technologies and cloud computing. I will post all comments and then summarize and analyze them.   

I must remind my readers that this is merely one evaluation of ArcGIS Online from one who is associated with the field of spatial technology.  You may have completely different and valid opinions concerning  some of issues raised here.   

 The ultimate purpose of this blog entry and other posted on this blog is to create a dialog that will progress Geographic Information Science to better serve the needs of the GIS community and the society at large.  


  1. I was blocked from the Linkedin user group ESRI Network. I posted the above review in their discussion group My criticism of their new product apparently was not appreciated. It shows lack of maturity of the staff of ESRI Network not to allow free speech on their site. While I am a supporter of ESRI and think it is a pioneer in the development of GIS, I am not a shill. Instead of blocking me they should have addressed my concerns about their software.

  2. hi,
    I managed to post the following to some of the other linkedin groups... Georelated summary would be GIS Geek heaven, practical IT professional weak.

    Full ESRI ArcGIS Online Review - http://www.georelated.com/2012/10/cloud-web-mapping-service-api-review.html
    Bing Maps API Review - http://www.georelated.com/2012/02/cloud-web-map-api-services-reviewed_19.html
    Google Maps API Review - http://www.georelated.com/2012/02/cloud-web-map-api-services-reviewed.html

  3. Michael, you were much kinder to ESRI than I would have been. ArcGIS.com is little more than a scam. It lacks an intuitive interface; it offers no advantages over ArcServer, even when considering the time it takes to develop an app; the group/organization structure is clunky and inefficient; navigation requires way too many mouse clicks for a modern web site; the web app templates are useless, considering the JavaScript API resource center has many more and better sample apps that can just as easily be configured (not to mention the Flex and Silverlight APIs); the symbology and 'pop-ups' configuration are too time-consuming; the available symbologies are dull and simplistic; data cannot be loaded into an existing feature service; the 1000 feature limit (250 in some cases) was an unwelcome surprise that ESRI should make more explicit; and, by attempting to bring web app development to a broader audience, ESRI struck upon an empty middle ground between developers and the general public, offering neither the capabilities desired by one nor the ease of use desired by the other.

  4. Hi Michael,

    I've not tested the ArcGIS Online yet, but I think I have a vague idea about the product since I've read your review and some others' opinions. And I ask myself a question: what advantage does this new ESRI product have over the variety of OpenSource solutions that actually exist out there? I'm inclined to think that this is a mere marketing operation in an effort to take advantage in the heavily disputed market of GIS solutions. But I think they have created the product in a tricky way, actually jumping on the bandwagon of cloud computing, although it seems they're not contributing in a brilliant way to this IT landmark.
    In my humble opinion, the way they have treated your perspective reflects negatively on the company which is struggling unwisely to maintain its historical advantageous position on the GIS market.

  5. Hi Michael,

    I've been doing some research and reading up on ArcGIS Online. It is not as easy as ESRI makes it out to be. At first I was very excited about it, however, as I started using the free personal account, I realize how frustrating, just getting the ArcGIS Online to work the way I hope it would, can be. Like you I am a strong supporter of ESRI software and products. If this is difficult for me who has been working in the GIS field for over 12 yrs now...what about the non-technical person?
    I'm still looking for an alternative software that will able to do the same as ArcGIS Online and work in Guyana (South America) too.

    Thanks for your post