The Long Tail of Mapping?
I don’t think Joe Francica’s article, The Long Tail of Mapping, quite grasps what the concept of the “long tail” is all about.
As I understood it, the “long tail” — as first expounded in Chris Anderson’s Wired article in 2004, and subsequently expanded through his blog and, just out, his book on the subject.— was an argument about the economics of web retailing: while physical stores had limited shelf space, online retailers (e.g., Amazon, iTunes) could, theoretically, stock practically everything, and might actually do more business selling the bottom-sellers that physical stores wouldn’t have room to stock than the few bestselling titles.
It is not, however, shorthand for ubiquity.
As a concept, the “long tail” is strictly retail, so it doesn’t quite apply to searches for free maps; a “long tail of mapping” would make it easier for me to find maps of places that I wouldn’t be able to find in a local bookstore or map store. For example, in 1997, when I was living in Edmonton but about to depart on a research trip to Paris, I was able to buy a Michelin Plan de Paris before my trip, but to get maps of provincial French cities — Lyon, Lille and Roubaix/Tourcoing — I had to buy them in France. But because Internet mapping doesn’t work the same way as Internet book- or music selling, the metaphor kind of falls apart.
Or am I missing something?