Canadian Geographic’s Crummy Canadian Atlas

The Royal Canadian Geographic Society, which publishes Canadian Geographic, launched the Canadian Geographic Atlas Online yesterday. It garnered lots of media coverage. Too bad it sucks.

To begin with, there isn’t much in the way of maps: it’s more a learning centre for the geography of Canada, with considerable focus on schoolchildren. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just a stretch to call it an atlas. Second, there’s really only one real map, and while you can zoom in on it to a certain degree and select layers, it’s surprisingly crude and basic. And third, the site is very badly designed. Links are frequently popups that maximize to fill the screen — while only using about a quarter of it — and hide the scrollbars, preventing you from seeing the material at the bottom of the page (and I’m on a 1440×900 screen here, folks, which is bigger than average). The maps were also extremely slow on opening night — I waited up to 30 seconds every time I tried to pan and zoom — but they’ve since gotten better, with lags of only a second or two. Chalk it up to first-day traffic, but their systems should have been more robust.

Bottom line, this is a mediocre effort that doesn’t live up to the hype. (I can’t believe this made The National!) Unless you’ve got a Grade 7 school report due tomorrow, you’re much better off with the government’s own Atlas of Canada (see previous entry).