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'Citizen cartographers' help Google update maps of N. Korea

Information on the more detailed, up-to-date maps was submitted to the Web giant's Map Maker tool as part of a years-long effort.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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City center or Pyongyang, North Korea. Google

Maps of North Korea's landscape have for decades been largely empty, but thanks to "a community of citizen cartographers," Google Maps has managed to fill in some of the blanks.

Tapping input submitted to its Google Map Maker tool, the Web giant has added more detailed, up-to-date information to its maps of the reclusive nation, including streets, names, and other points of interest.

Jayanth Mysore, Google's senior product manager of Map Maker, discussed in a company blog post the effort behind assembling the new data:

To build this map, a community of citizen cartographers came together in Google Map Maker to make their contributions such as adding road names and points of interest. 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. As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before.

One area where the changes are most apparent is in the city of Pyongyang, where highways, parks, and even subway stations have been added. Google provided the following examples:

Pyongyang, North Korea, before the map update. Google
Pyongyang, North Korea, after Google's map update. Google
The additions come mere weeks after Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made a controversial humanitarian visit to the country where he warned officials that global Internet access was key to developing its economy.