China’s Map World uses DigitalGlobe imagery

A quick update on China’s newly launched Map World: Chinese neogeographer William Long has posted a review of Map World on his blog (English translation), wherein he notes that at least some of the imagery in Map World is gleaned from American satellite imaging company DigitalGlobe: William compared Map World’s imagery of Tiananmen to Google Earth’s historical imagery archive and found identical imagery from DigitalGlobe dated Feb 9, 2007. (He posts comparison screenshots.) Google Earth, meanwhile, carries imagery from as recently as Nov 8, 2009.

But he makes the most surprising discovery when he manages to get the 3D viewer to work: Map World’s 3D navigation tool bears more than a passing resemblance to Google Earth’s own, in terms of style:

genav.jpg mapworldnav.jpg

Can you tell which is which?

(Screenshot. Seriously now, not even an attempt to camouflage the ripoff? Still, what is Google going to do, sue the Chinese government?)

His other point worth mentioning: the 3D view doesn’t actually do 3D. It doesn’t render elevation. It is merely the 2D imagery projected onto a sphere. The one advantage over 2D: The 3D imagery doesn’t suffer the 2D imagery’s north-south compression due to Map World’s funky projection.

[Update 15:54 UTC: China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping has now clarified its earlier statements, to the effect that while the software powering Map World is wholly Chinese, the imagery is indeed purchased from DigitalGlobe. I didn't think this was an issue, but apparently many Chinese users were under the impression that the service was completely home-grown.]