Google Maps: Why China Still Refuses To Allow The World’s Biggest Maps App
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Imagine a world without Google Maps. Picture the scene - you're trying to find your way to a bar to meet a friend in an unfamiliar city, it's a cold winter evening and you've got off the bus at the wrong stop.
You try to remember the street name, but you can only remember the name of the pub - you check a bus stop, but there's no map, there's no road signs to guide you, you are totally lost. You are going to have to ask someone on the street if they know where the pub is, and hope that they know.
A nightmare scenario, I know - but luckily it is a scenario that 99 percent of us can avoid simply by taking a phone out of our pocket and consulting Google Maps.
Yes, the world's most popular navigational app has been bailing us all out of the crap since 2007, and most of us can't imagine a world without it. However, for a large chunk of the world's population this dark scenario is a fact of life.
China has a population of nearly 1.4 billion people and since 2010 they have been unable to use Google Maps or Street View.
It had been reported by the Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei that the service would be returning to China after a lengthy absence, but this claim has been firmly refuted by the powers that be at Google.
"There have been no changes to Google Maps in China," said Google spokesperson Taj Meadows. "Maps has been accessible on desktop for years, but does not have an official presence in Android or iOS app stores in China."
Google has had a pretty rocky relationship with China for a few years now. This is because they refused to self-censor their search results to comply with the country's stricter laws regarding use of the internet. This has led to Google's search engine and video platform YouTube being banned in the country.
However they have recently been trying to patch things up with the country (incidentally, China is the world's largest smartphone market, so it's probably worth their while to compromise).
Last year Google Translate became available in China, and they've invested in a few projects over there including a gaming live-stream platform called Chushou.
This involvement suggests that there could be hope for those who want to see Google Maps back in the country. I guess until then, visitors to China will have to look for spy planes by some other means.