Friday, March 29, 2013

Zigong, Google Maps, Baidu Map, Bing Maps, and Taiwan

I shared the previous posts about a friendly lunch and a friendly family not only because Zigong, Sichuan province, was on my mind but also because I don't yet have a post ready to follow up my earlier comments about Google Reader. I'm not sure when I will finish it, but in the meantime there are two earlier posts which now seem convenient to "refresh" since they mention both Zigong and Google: "Google Maps and Baidu Map in China" and "Maps in (and of) China: Baidu, Bing, and Google". They are both comparisons of map services in China and were written almost two years ago. They were inspired by some findings in my research on youth in China and some claims in Western media that Baidu Map's hand-drawn 3-D view was a sign of how it had surpassed Google Maps. After providing some evidence highlighting the limitations of Baidu's 3-D view, I compared the two services in other regards. In the second post, I added Bing Maps China into the mix as well. I also included some views of Zigong to show who correctly depicted the existence (or non-existence) of a river and a street.

I would not have the exact same stories to tell if I again wrote about these three services. But some points would remain the same, including the extreme lack of detail on Baidu Map for regions outside of China. And related to that, there is one thing I will add. In the 2nd post I pointed out that in both Bing Maps China and Google Maps China:
... there is a dashed line around the South China Sea and around Taiwan to presumably make it clear they are parts of China. To say the least, these are both areas where any such claims China may make are under significant dispute. The dashed lines do not appear in Google Maps US and Bing Maps US.
Not surprisingly, those dashed lines also appear in Baidu Map. Now, here's the interesting part. Baidu Map has no details for city-level views of Taiwan--a heavily populated region. Zoom in to the city level and Taipei is not there at all. In fact, it's indistinguishable from Washington D.C. Bing Maps China at least offers a few very broad details at the city level*, although they would be rather limited in their usefulness. Only Google Maps China has rich city-level maps for Taiwan. An explanation for Baidu's lack of detail in Taiwan can't simply rest on a distinction between mainland China and the other areas administered / claimed by China, because Baidu Map has detailed city-level maps for both Hong Kong and Macau.

At least for now, I won't have the chance to research this further, so I'll just say again... "interesting".

*Yes, the results can be better for non-China-based versions of Bing Maps. That's another story, and I touched on related issues in the 2nd maps post.

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