France Unveils Google-like Map Service

France unveiled a new service Friday that would allow residents to view ultra-high resolution images of the country as well as its territories.

Called Geoportal, the site offers the ability to zoom in to as close as 20 inches off the ground, the best resolution available in Europe. 400,000 images comprise the tool along with 3,700 maps, which are updated every five years.

In a ceremony unveiling the new technology, President Jacques Chirac called the move significant as it "places France at the forefront of new technologies." Although some may see it as a bid to compete with Google Earth, Geoportal differs in the fact it can only show images of French territories.

The system was developed by the National Geographic, and much like Google Earth it would be switchable from aerial to detailed maps, and soon even 3-D imagery. However, unlike its counterpart geological data would also be added. The entire project cost France six million euros to develop.

But don't expect to be able to access Geoportal for the near future, as the site has been unable to handle the heavy traffic following its debut. BetaNews checks on Friday afternoon indicated that the site was still having problems.

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