One of the advantages of having multiple companies providing internet-based maps is that it makes censorship a less feasible proposition for a government — akin to playing a game of wack-a-mole. It’s an entirely positive development for us end-users, because if the source material for the Netherlands in Google Earth is overly censored, why not try Virtual Earth or Yahoo Maps?
Take the example of the office of the “Dienst Vastgoed Defensie”, aka Defence Property Services department, in The Hague. The aerial photography in Google Earth and Maps was over-enthusiastically censored by Dutch authorities before being released to the public domain back in 2006:
For whatever reason, the recently updated version in Microsoft Virtual Earth suffers from a much lighter censor’s touch. A medium-resolution satellite version doesn’t suffer from censorship at all (as Dutch authorities have no jurisdiction over satellite imagery):
Virtual Earth’s high-resolution aerial imagery suffers censorship at a much lower grain of pixellation than Google’s, and also over a smaller area:
Ditto for bird’s eye view:
Finally, for comparison, Yahoo’s Maps’ effort, a satellite image that is not censored:
This game can be repeated for any of the over 100 Dutch censored sites as identified by this layer in Google Earth Community. In other words, due to competition things are getting better, not worse, when it comes to tools for circumventing web-based map censorship attempts.