One humble software platform is behind all those coronavirus dashboards

It’s ArcGIS -- and the crisis has made it more popular than ever.


May 14, 2020

They’re a common player in our fits of doomscrolling these days: digital displays that show how the coronavirus crisis is spreading across the globe.

Your anxiety probably wants you to give the people who create those displays a wedgie. But before you cart off a cartographer — there’s actually a cool story behind the scary stats.

Bloomberg found that a single software platform — well-known in professional circles but under the radar of normies like the rest of us — powers thousands of them.

It’s called ArcGIS — and here’s the gist

It was created by a California company called Esri, founded in 1969.

By Bloomberg’s description, Esri is like the software industry’s version of a beloved pair of sweatpants — it “sits unassumingly in that tier of comfortable, decades-old tech companies built on products that have survived radical technological changes.”

And if the crisis proved anything, people LOVE sweats

In the Before Times, Esri had already cornered more than half the market for Geographic Information System (better known as GIS) software.

A company official says 3.7k+ organizations (including many newcomers) are now using corona dashboards — including Johns Hopkins University, whose popular display sees 3m+ hits per hour.

One challenge of the platform’s sudden popularity: How to make things look good on the small screen. Sixty percent of corona dashboard traffic comes from mobile, because doomscrolling is phone-friendly, even if the displays aren’t.

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