GIS began as a highly specialized application of information technology, with its own hardware devices for input and output, its own data structures, and its own algorithms for data processing. Through time more and more aspects of GIS have become mainstream, and more and more standard approaches have been adopted to replace earlier specialized ones, taking advantage of the economies of scale inherent in the mainstream. However there are many reasons for treating geographic information as special, and for educating specialists in GIS concepts, principles, and use. The paper enumerates many of these, and presents the arguments against wholesale adoption of mainstream practices. Special attention is paid to metadata standards and the process of search over distributed archives for GIS data sets. The future health of the GIS industry depends on knowing when to generalize and when to specialize
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