Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 2nd Aug 2018 22:43 UTC

For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut.

The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google's map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.


The swift rebranding of the roughly 170-year-old district is just one example of how Google Maps has now become the primary arbiter of place names. With decisions made by a few Google cartographers, the identity of a city, town or neighborhood can be reshaped, illustrating the outsize influence that Silicon Valley increasingly has in the real world.

The Detroit neighborhood now regularly called Fishkorn (pronounced FISH-korn), but previously known as Fiskhorn (pronounced FISK-horn)? That was because of Google Maps. Midtown South Central in Manhattan? That was also given life by Google Maps.

I never thought about this, but now it seems obvious - Google Maps is so widespread it's basically become the authority on maps. This isn't some new phenomenon, though - cartography has a long history of phantom islands that would appear on maps for decades, sometimes even centuries, even though they weren't real at all.

Order by: Score:
This is a horrible thing
by Poseidon on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 00:37 UTC
Member since:

I thought that it was the opposite, that information would want to come from the city as to the official name in order to be more accurate and prevent bad actors from renaming a place and having bad data.

But as this stands, it's insane, because not a lot of people I know use Google's maps, and use instead Apple or Microsoft's maps, or some other third party.

Now, if most of those third parties use Google, including Apple or Microsoft, that's a huge problem and a single point of failure.

Reply Score: 2

They fix stuff too
by Bobthearch on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 03:38 UTC
Member since:

An interesting experience, I had reported on an incident at a local park and had called the park by a similar but wrong name. The name on Google maps was wrong, other news media printed it wrong, and the city had even painted the wrong name on an electrical box.
My mistake was pointed out by a descendant of the park's namesake. As proof, they showed me a dedication plague at the park with the correct name.
Not only did I correct my online story, I also reported the mistake to Google Maps, who fixed it within a day. I was able to share a screenshot of the corrected maps with the park namesake's family.

Reply Score: 6

RE: They fix stuff too
by No it isnt on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 16:33 UTC in reply to "They fix stuff too"
No it isnt Member since:

I've also reported errors to Google Maps, and had them corrected soon enough (stairs marked as bicycle paths and similar). Trying to find the 'report' link after the latest few revisions was something of a challenge, though. Seems to only show up in Streetview now?

Reply Score: 3

RE: They fix stuff too
by jh27 on Mon 6th Aug 2018 14:21 UTC in reply to "They fix stuff too"
jh27 Member since:

You got stuff corrected in a day? I've sent multiple reports about an issue in my area and it still hasn't been fixed.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by daedalus
by daedalus on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 07:54 UTC
Member since:

Such changes on a smaller scale are probably very common too. My parents' home is on a reasonably main road, and when I was growing up, we never had any major problems getting deliveries, take-aways and so on. But Google Maps has mistakenly applied the name of the road to another nearby road, and now it's actually really difficult to get a take-away delivered, and things like Amazon deliveries now frequently get returned as undeliverable even when there are people home, simply because couriers are looking on the wrong road entirely.

We've submitted correction reports to Google several times over the years, but it's yet to be fixed.

Reply Score: 4

Two way causation
by Iapx432 on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 12:39 UTC
Member since:

This is simply two way causation between real and virtual worlds / mimics. It is going to become common.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by WelshDwarf
by WelshDwarf on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 13:30 UTC
Member since:

The paper town phenomena is well documented.

Here's a nice story about a paper town that became brick and mortar, just because it was on a map:

Reply Score: 2

by Bill Shooter of Bul on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 16:11 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:

The East cut exists as a neighborhood improvement group, this is where Google got the name from. They have a website, they've been around since 2015, predating the map update. They have promotional banners up in the streets.

Reply Score: 3

by Bill Shooter of Bul on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 17:31 UTC in reply to "BOGUS Story"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:

Eh, the story mentions this fact at the bottom of the article... So it knows this is bogus. It also walks back on the Fishkorn, which was an error by a Detroit mapper, that was copied into google maps.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Reply Score: 1

by zima on Fri 3rd Aug 2018 21:24 UTC in reply to "BOGUS Story"
zima Member since:

Don't you see it as a problem of the maps if very young "neighborhood improvement group" determines the names?...

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: BOGUS Story
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Mon 6th Aug 2018 13:02 UTC in reply to "RE: BOGUS Story"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:

Maybe. I don't know or care. But its a different problem than Google making up names for places. Which, I think we can all agree is insane.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Sidux
by Sidux on Mon 6th Aug 2018 08:43 UTC
Member since:

Similar case is with software used to report building utilization in various countries..
Data is generally taken from various sources and frequently do have consistency problems (mistypes, duplicates, invalid number of floors or capacities)..
Problem is this does get into reports and handed over to customers and while nobody has the ability to cross check the validity of what is being recorded (or have any interest in it), it is taken for granted most of the time.
Probably it is the same case at Google HQ but on a much larger scale.. Their business model in the end is to put on the map those that paid for advertising and want to make a business in that area..
Truth or not, whatever is on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt at least ..

Reply Score: 2