Internet 15 August 2008 Drawing a blank on Georgia The controversy over the missing maps of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Was it deliberate? Google Sign up for our weekly email * Print HTML Google maps has been under attack this week from a variety of different parties for what was initially reported as the intentional blanking of the maps of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan from their database. The Azerbaijan Press Agency reported that the information was "…removed from the server after the military operations were launched in South Ossetia." As one might expect this drew harsh criticism from many quarters of the web. Indeed, a quick visit to the appropriate latlong will reveal a startlingly barren strip of terrain. Whilst a number of Countries in the region have map data which is greatly reduced in its detail, none are totally blank. The satellite imagery available on the same site reveals that there’s definitely something there - so what’s going on? As the blanking of maps might possibly be filed under ‘evil’, Google were rapid to deny the accusation via both its GMaps blog and the official Google blog itself. Maps product manager Dave Marsh assured readers that Google certainly hadn’t blanked the maps in response to the hostilities, “Data for these countries were never on Google Maps in the first place.” Marsh states that coverage of those countries hadn’t been “launched” as yet as they weren’t satisfied with the map data available to them, essentially declaring the whole affair an issue of quality control. Marsh finishes his post by reporting that the issue has generated a lot of feedback which they are going to learn from. Startlingly, he specifically states that Google Maps users have said they would, “..rather see even very basic coverage of a country than see nothing at all.” This was a position that he acknowledges, “..makes sense..”, assuring users that they were starting to prepare data for the blank countries forthwith. He closes by letting pointing users to the Google Earth application, which contains full details of Georgian roads and cities. Even acknowledging that no deletion of cities has taken place, for a company whose mission is to, ”organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful” this seems like at best like an extraordinarily poorly judged prioritisation. For the company who recently announced it has found a trillion unique URL’s showing surprise that users might prefer even basic information to a totally blank map seems at least a little suspect. › Dancing in the rain Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University. Subscribe from just £1 per issue More Related articles Amber Rudd's ignorance isn't just a problem for the laws she writes It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons Who will win the French presidential election?