Over the summer, we at The Tech heard there was a war between Russia and the country of Georgia. Curious, I turned to the popular source for cartographic data, Google Maps.
Stunningly, Google Maps has no data for Georgia.
No cities, no roads, no bodies of — oh wait, it does seem to have twenty or so small bodies of water. No rivers, though.
Compare this to Microsoft’s maps.live.com (search for “Tbilisi,” Georgia’s capital). There are over a hundred locations marked in the initial view, and more as you zoom in.
(In fairness, though, the Spy Division over at Google seems to be working fine. If you click on “Satellite,” you can see down to the 100-feet:1-inch scale, enough to distinguish individual automobiles. That’s better than the 500-feet:1-inch you can get for Dick Cheney’s house — ask for “38.92,-77.07.” Not quite as good as the 20-feet:1-inch you get in Cambridge, the Pentagon, or the White House.)
With some prompting, we went and asked Google; this was back on Aug. 12.
Their initial response, via e-mail, was to affirm they’d made no changes and simply “do not have local data” for Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. (Apparently some people out there thought Google might’ve deleted Georgia.) This at 9:30 a.m., Pacific.
A few minutes later (they don’t seem to believe in telephones over there), they declined to indicate when they might have this data, or why it hasn’t been a priority. Georgia, by the way, is home to 5 million people, and is slightly smaller than South Carolina.
It seems Google felt they could do a bit better, since later that day, at 5:49 p.m., they put up a blog post, http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/where-is-georgia-on-google-maps.html.
Apparently the people at Google “simply weren’t satisfied with the map data we had available,” so they decided to put up nothing.
And of course, they hurried to assure us all that they had not accidently hit the delete key, and the “data were never on Google Maps in the first place.” (Whew! Also, data is still plural. What a relief.)
They close by saying they’ve “started preparing data” on the “countries that are still blank.” Doesn’t seem to be much progress in the past two weeks.
Oh well, there’s always Microsoft.