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Department of Geography
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UC Santa Barbara Geography / News & Events / Department News

August 14, 2008 - First General Sherman, Now the Russians, Invade Savannah

The Valley Wag, a blog site at http://valleywag.com/, points out that users of Google Maps made a major gaffe in relation to news about Russia’s invasion of the nation of Georgia on August 8 (original text here): “Did you know that Russian troops are thrusting into the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia? That's what readers will learn from a Google Maps graphic accompanying a news story about Russian incursions into Georgia (article here) — the nation-state in the Caucasus, not the Caucasian-pride-ridden state in the southern United States. Google's mixup will not help Yahoo Answers user Jessica B., who presciently asked, "i herd on the news that rusia has invaded but i dont see them no where wats going on" (see what’s hopefully a spoof here). A screenshot of Google's erroneous invasion map is on the right.

A blog on the Valley Wag of August 10 by “SultanaLion” quips, “They fixed it, but the fix isn't much better. As of 1600 EST 10 Aug 08 I found the map graphic changed from the US state of Georgia at this link, but the new graphic shows central Europe, with the arrow pointing to Wien (Vienna). Although they are now on the correct continental landmass (Eurasia), they are still a longways from the correct location. I thought AFP was a European news organization and might have a little more of a clue. I guess not.”

Ironically, Google didn’t even have a detailed map of the country of Georgia at the time of its invasion. Dave Barth, Google’s Product Manager defended this omission by saying, “The recent conflict in Georgia has raised some questions about how Google Maps has handled mapping in that part of the world. The most obvious question is, why doesn't Google Maps show any cities or roads for Georgia, or its neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan? The answer is we never launched coverage in those countries because we simply weren't satisfied with the map data we had available. We're constantly searching for the best map data we can find, and sometimes will delay launching coverage in a country if we think we can get more comprehensive data. Some of our customers have asked if we removed map data from any of these countries in response to the recent hostilities in that region and I can assure you that is not the case. Data for these countries were never on Google Maps in the first place” (full text here).

Thanks to ex-Geography staffer Mark Grosch for bringing the above to our attention.

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