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Baidu beats Google when it comes to mapping

Have you ever played SimCity – or if you’re younger, CityVille on Facebook – and wondered what it might look like to have a real city depicted in simstyle? Well, some of the allegedly 6000 engineers working at Baidu must have had the same thought, as the Chinese search-company has launched a map of Shanghai in very colourful 3D.

baidu2

And here is the crazy part – it is not made up of generic blocks of houses … as far as I can tell, this 3D-map painstakingly reflects the real buildings in Shanghai.

I tried to find a spot and compare it in Google maps and Baidu maps. And who wins that challenge? In my opinion the Baidu maps comes out on top. It’s a visual style, that you’ll need a moment to get used to, but afterwards you’re rewarded with a very clear presentation and an easy way to navigate the city. It’s also quite fun to see how the various buildings are distilled into recognizable pixelations. My guess is, that this map has probably taken quite a few artists quite some time, but that only adds to the quality.

google1
Now compare with Google, which uses some kind of an automated photo-blending, that unfortunately has the second road trying to cross the river mysteriously vanishing and ending up in the dark waters of Huangpujiang. We’re talking one of the largest cities in the world and Google let an error like this go unnoticed? When the road are Baidu’ed and simstyled you won’t get errors like this.
Censoring out information
Baidu is the search-engine you won’t want to use unless you read Chinese or Japanese. But that market is huge in itself – especially as 70% of the younger internet-users in China prefers Baidu over any other search-engine including Google. And with a map-service that looks like it was grabbed straight from a computer game, it will certainly add to the popularity. The downside with using Baidu is of course that it has no problems with censoring out information on the request of the government – but that won’t be a problem as long as you only use it for wayfinding in Shanghai.

baidu1 Link to the Baidu-map of Shanghai

beevilLink to a recent story about Baidu in Businessweek