Sean Gorman from FortiusOne was kind enough to let me have a play with the new GeoCommons Maker application ahead of its upcoming release. I don't have time for a detailed review right now, but overall my first impressions of it are very good. Maker is their new product focused on enabling non-expert users to make nice maps. Map layers can be of three types - basic reference data, or chloropleth or graduated symbol thematic maps.
The following is a graduated symbol map showing number of Facebook users by city in the US.
This is an example of one of the map creation screens - the whole process has nice clear graphics which are well thought out to explain the process and options, with ways of getting more information when you want it.
I am a big fan of FortiusOne's vision of putting spatial analysis in the hands of people who are not geospatial specialists. There are still a lot of traditional GIS people who think the sky will fall in (people may draw invalid conclusions if they don't understand data accuracy, etc etc) if you let "untrained" people analyze geospatial data, but I think this is nonsense. I think the best analogy is the spreadsheet. Of course people can draw incorrect conclusions from any kind of data, geospatial or not, but in the great majority of cases this does not happen, and they discover useful insights. Spreadsheets let "untrained" people do useful analysis on all kinds of other data, and I think that FortiusOne is trying to democratize access to spatial analysis in the same way that the spreadsheet has done for non-spatial data. The benefits of having a much larger set of people able to do basic geospatial analysis are huge.
As I said above, I think that this first release looks great, and I look forward to seeing where they take this in the future. I understand that the public release of this will be coming soon.