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.