Google improves maps of secretive North Korea, but you can forget Street View

google improves map data for secretive north korea but forget street viewWhen it comes to mapping the world, it’s not surprising that Google finds some places more challenging than others. Take North Korea, for example. It’s one of the most secretive states on the planet, with foreign visitors escorted everywhere they go and little concrete information ever emerging about precisely what’s happening within its tightly controlled borders. No wonder Google can’t get one of its Street View cars in there.

Satellite images are all well and good, but labeling points of interest and roads isn’t so easy when it comes to a country like North Korea, a nation founded shortly after the end of WWII when the Korean peninsula was divided into two separate states.

Thanks to a community of keen citizen cartographers, however, Google is rolling out some significant improvements to its North Korea maps, the company said Monday.

Working with Google Map Maker, a feature which allows anyone with an interest in cartography to add to and update maps of familiar places, a group of enthusiasts has been busy adding data to maps of North Korea. However, the company didn’t say exactly who updated the maps, or where the mappers are located.

“This effort has been active in Map Maker for a few years and today the new map of North Korea is ready and now available on Google Maps,” Jayanth Mysore, senior product manager of Google Map Maker, wrote in a blog post.

He added, “While many people around the globe are fascinated with North Korea, these maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there.”

‘Before’ and ‘after’ images in Mysore’s blog post give a clear indication of just how much work has gone into the refreshed North Korea map, with the virtually bare ‘before’ image showing the area around the capital city of Pyongyang now updated with a network of roads and road names.

This isn’t the first time the Mountain View company and North Korea have turned up in the news together. Last week it was reported that a blogger using Google Earth had discovered what appeared to be further evidence of the existence of prison camps that are believed to hold as many as 200,000 people considered hostile to the country’s regime.

And just a couple of weeks ago, Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited the nation, reportedly as part of a humanitarian mission with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

At the end of his four-day visit, Schmidt urged the regime to give its people freedom to use the Internet or face continuing problems with its dire economy.

“As the world is becoming increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth,” he said at the time.

In a country of 25 million people, it’s believed only a select few have access to the Internet.

[Image: Aleksander Mijatovic / Shutterstock]


Google confirms Allo chat app will shut down in 2019

Another day, another messaging app reportedly shutting down. Following reports of Google Hangouts shutting down, Google Allo might be next. While Google has yet to confirm, the tech giant may be putting an end to the chat app soon.

Not ready for the new 'Fortnite' winter wonderland? Here's our tourist guide

Fortnite season 7 has arrived with some chilly winter air and some pretty hefty changes to the Battle Royale map. We've got the full guide to all of the map changes, new locations, new terrain, and more, right here.

What you should know about 'Battlefield V,' and what to expect with Tides of War

Battlefield V is one of the most ambitious games Electronic Arts and DICE have ever released, including full campaign, multiplayer, and battle royale modes, all while not charging players extra for new maps.
Smart Home

Which is better, the Amazon Echo or the Google Home? We took a look at both

What happens when you compare the Google Home vs the Amazon Echo? Both smart speakers have good qualities, but what happens when you compare they're features side-by-side? We think one of these smart gadgets wins over the other.
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.

Google’s updated Santa Tracker entertains and teaches coding throughout December

Google's Santa Tracker is in its fifteenth year and is back again with even more features. You can have fun with more than 20 games, learn about different holiday traditions around the world, and enjoy some festive animations.

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.

Tired of paying a monthly fee for Word? The best Microsoft Office alternatives

Looking for a competent word processor that isn't Microsoft Word? Thankfully, the best alternatives to Microsoft Office offer robust features, expansive compatibility, and an all-too-familiar aesthetic. Here are our favorites.

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.

Microsoft is ‘handing even more of online life’ to Google, Mozilla CEO says

Not everyone is happy with Microsoft's switch to Google's Chromium engine. In a new blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard writes that he believes the move is "handing online life control" to Google.

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.