France's 'Geoportail' attracts millions

Nearly five million Internet users have clicked on to "Geoportail," the French answer to Google Earth offering high-resolution aerial imagery of France, in the first day of the site's operation, an AFP report said.

The report said Geoportail ( was developed by the state-funded National Geographic Institute (IGN), in a bid to rival the planetary success of the US pioneer in the field, Google Earth.

"This fantastic interest encourages the promoters of this innovative project to go even further," the IGN said. "But it has also caused the saturation of the site, beyond anything we may have feared.'

The AFP report also said that if the exceptional level of traffic to the Web site would continue, the promoters might need to regulate access to the site, probably on the basis of passwords.

Analysts said average traffic to the most popular French Web site was about four million a day, according to the report.