China: China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM) unveiled a state-sanctioned and produced online world map, Map World. According to a SBSM official, the map, in the near future, will grow to be a famous Chinese brand for online map services with proven reliability.
The map features images taken through satellite remote sensing with a resolution of 500 meters, but this is enhanced to 2.5 meters for the Chinese map and 0.6 meters for maps of more than 300 Chinese cities and uses satellite imagery taken from 2006 to 2010 and took two years to build.
Google’s absence from the China market had been seen as possibly a window for Baidu and others to gain a strong hold (and Baidu and Nokia in particular have received licenses), but if the government pours a lot of resources into this project – and continues to make it freely available – it could conceivably at least slow down any private service from taking hold of the market as Google has in many parts of the world.
As far as Map World itself is concerned, the tile-based map is live right now (and has two URLs – tianditu.cn & chinaonmap.cn) and has a number of features, including links to separate websites for each of China’s provinces.
Aesthetically, the map reminds us of OpenStreetMap. However, given the way information is added (and subtracted) from Map World, it probably couldn’t be further than the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap.
SBSM officials were pretty frank in the China Daily report in saying that Map World is at present no match for top-of-the-line online maps such as Google Earth, saying: “The technology and website construction are still at a preliminary stage. Service providers have more than 80 virtual machines to support the operation with the ability to handle 10 million requests daily, while Google Earth has thousands of virtual machines. Our map service is expected to update the geological data about twice a year, but Google Earth can update its information every couple of minutes.”