The French answer to Google Earth, the indirectly government funded Geoportail, launched Friday and was immediately overwhelmed with visits from eager French citoyens (citizens) and other curious would-be users. After several visits to the site this weekend, I was still unable to get in to see anything. Each time I tried I encountered this message: "Vous êtes incroyablement nombreux à vous connecter au Géoportail, portail des territoires et des citoyens depuis sa mise en ligne." In my broken French it roughly translates: "An incredible number of you have connected to Geoportail, portal of the territories and the citizens, since the site came online."
In other words, revenu plus tard (come back later).
Here are some screenshots of the different map views, including Birds Eye-like angled aerial photography. Built by the government funded Insitut Geographique National for a reported Euro 6 million (roughly US$7.51 million), the site offers detailed maps, geographic and other data and high-resolution aerial photography of France and French territories abroad. Reportedly the resolution goes down to 20 inches, which I believe is the best currently available in France and perhaps the whole of Europe (though Microsoft's Vexcel camera goes to 6 inches).
A 3-D tool is apparently being introduced later in the year.
Although I haven't been able to use it, the reports and descriptions suggest that it's a potentially worthy competitor to Google, Yahoo and MSN mapping tools in France.
If you can read French and want to look at the press materials and some Quicktime videos related to the site, you can see those here.
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