China’s ‘Map World’ Without Google

October 29, 2010 12:36 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 6:40 pm

Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps that provides panoramic views from various positions along many streets in the world. (Wikimedia Commons)
Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps that provides panoramic views from various positions along many streets in the world. (Wikimedia Commons)
China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM) announced that it will redistribute the market of Internet maps at the end of this year or early next year. Noticeably, Google Maps is not included.

On Oct. 21, China’s Map World, a national, public Internet service of geographic information, was officially up and running. The new Map World has almost the same functions as Google Maps. Information includes roads, water systems, administrative districts, residential areas, and geographic names. It has real-image mode and three-dimensional mode. It also provides information on business locations, such as shops and restaurants.  According to the SBSM, Map World will be updated every six months. So far, this website cannot provide high-resolution images of areas outside China.

In March, Google withdrew its Internet search service from China and moved its servers to Hong Kong to avoid Chinese regime censorship. Since then Google’s Internet service market share has been dropping in China. However, mainland Internet users can still access Google, including its map service, through the Hong Kong server.

Chinese Business License

In the past, map information in China has been classified as military secret. And survey and mapping services are still restricted in China. A company must obtain a license before it can provide these services. To apply for the license, the company server that keeps the mapping information must be located inside China, and the company must provide the server’s public IP.

In May, China issued a new regulation called <Professional Standards for Internet Mapping Services> and said all companies who provide Internet geographic information must apply for business permits.

The <temporary administration regulations for foreign organizations and individuals who map in China> that were announced in 2007, stipulate that foreign businesses involved in mapping in China, must have joint venture and cooperation with a Chinese business. Also, the Chinese company must be the holding company.

As of the end of September, authorities have issued business permits to 31 companies, including Tencent, Baidu, Sina, and Nokia. Google is not among them.

Since Google Maps did not get a license to operate in China, it has no chance of entering the map service market in China, unless Google moves its servers back to China and agrees to let a Chinese company hold the majority of its stock.

Same Satellite Images

After China set up Map World, Chinese media said that the software is the intellectual property of the Chinese government. However, a Chinese Internet user found out that the satellite images on Map World and Google Maps are exactly the same in many instances, including the number of cars on highways, the cars’ shapes, positions, and colors. The Internet user surmised that the two satellite maps have to come from the same source.

Jiang Jie, Chief of the Bureau’s Center of National Basic Geological Information, admitted, “the satellite images are purchased from overseas.”

So far Google has not commented.