October 22, 2010

China Unveils Mapping Service Similar To Google Earth

China has unveiled its own version of an online mapping service to compete with Google Earth's popular satellite mapping service.

"Map World" was unveiled by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping on Thursday. 

Google and China have been battling since last year, when a serious hacking attack prompted Google to ultimately withdraw its search service from the mainland.

Google has not yet applied for a Web mapping license in China, but its mapping service is accessible from computers on the mainland.

In May, the bureau issued regulations requiring companies that provide online map and location service to apply for licenses.  Firms have to keep map servers storing data within the country in order to apply.

Google's video-sharing site YouTube and photo service Picasa are both blocked in China.  Searchers originating in China are now directed to its search engine based in Hong Kong.

Some of Map World's high-resolution images of central Beijing appear to have been taken on October 1, 2009, when streets were cleared for the tanks and floats of the National Day Parade.

Map World only provides high-altitude images outside China, with the other side of the Chinese-North Korean border a stark white blank once a certain resolution passes. 

Taiwan cannot be viewed at the same resolution as the mainland.

Much mapping in China is subject to state-security restrictions, creating headaches for mining companies and hikers because they are unable to use the high-resolution deposit maps.