A very well-executed web video (1:13) on Google Video (natch) excoriates Google for having Tibet labelled as a part of China in Google Earth. Two points:
- Geeks will notice that this is the first instance where Google Earth actually shows up in a virtual 3D environment, and will immediately think of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, where CIC Earth is in fact part of the metaverse. (Apologies to normal people.)
- Google isn’t being evil, at least not any more than almost all official toponymical sources, globally. But there are two things it could do to inoculate itself against this and future criticisms:
- Outsource responsibility for Google Earth’s naming and border layers to a trusted third party, like National Geographic.
- Add a base layer you can turn on that maps disputed territories, names and borders. This is the equivalent of how Wikipedia deals with controversial topics — it turns the dispute into a meta-debate on a separate page — and Google Earth should do the same, perhaps even in collaboration with Wikipedia; it’s not like there are space constraints in a digital universe, and Wikipedia already links to places and regions, so why not to borders and names too?