I wrote recently about Google's applaudable improvements to their mapping system, remarking that they are still trailing other mapping services (such as Microsoft's). My observations about the data coverage of Google's mapping is based on many interactions with the system, but it is not remotely scientific.
Someone going by the name of Jon posted this useful comment on my latest post on the topic:
Trailing it's competitors? What are you smoking? Microsoft doesn't have more coverage, and never did.
It is an interesting comment - particularly to me, after having thought about and read about the power of brands to help users fantasize about the quality of service. Jon is, of course, not very well informed.
However, I thought it might be a good time to consider a more methodological approach. Taking a list of countries ordered by population, and starting at the bottom, I reviewed the data found on Google and Live (Microsoft). I scored each location for the presence of the shape of the country, the presence of populated places (PPL) - that is to say cities, towns and so on, the presence of roads, and which system had the better imagery - meaning the highest resolution, not the most up to date.
In the table below, the presence of features is marked for Google and Live. For example, Y/N means that Google has the feature and that Live doesn't.
|Saint-Pierre and Miquelon||6125||Y/Y||N/Y||N/Y|
|Wallis and Futuna||15000||Y/Y||N/Y||N/Y|
|British Virgin Islands||23000||Y/Y||N/Y||N/Y|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||26000||Y/Y||N/Y||N/N|
It is interesting to note the trend indicated by this summary analysis: Microsoft is wining on country and road data, while Google is ahead with imagery. Of course, there are many other ways to sample the data (e.g. via areas with high tourist traffic), and it would be nice to actually build a comprehensive version of the table above - or even display graphically coverage for different system.