Seems a little…convenient…that just these three territories are blanked out. The satellite images for these countries remains intact, however.
In response to enquiries to Google, Dave Barth, Product Manager, stated on the Google Blog, Google Latlong:
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.
He also comments that Google will start to look at other countries where coverage is lacking.
However, some questions stil remain:
Firstly, if it is the case that a number of territories have no data and have not be worth the effort up until now, why are these three countries the only ones that have nothing whatsover? Not a town name, not a road, nothing at all. There are other locations with very minimal information – such as Northern and Eastern Russia, and some countries in the African continent – but even these have a few roads or placenames. None of them are totally bereft of anything whatsoever.
Secondly, it seems strange that ingnoring the current conflict in these territories, no-one in the past has contacted Google to ask the question, assuming that, as Barth suggests, these areas have NEVER had coverage. One would assume that over the time Google Maps has been around that enough people with an interest in those countries would have complained.
Lastly, Google Earth is much the same – no road maps at all. Some town names, although it is hard to know if these have been added by users. Interestingly, North Ossetia has roadmap information, South Ossetia does not.
It just seems very strange to me that Google would decide that Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan would be of such little interest that they would merit no coverage at all, when even somewhere like Chad has a couple of roads and placenames. Are these three the three least interesting places in the whole world or something?