Apple Maps has been justly ridiculed for putting an Irish airport in the middle of a farm, twisting the Brooklyn Bridge to rubble, and nearly getting some tourists killed in a remote Australian national park. But this weekend, the Wall Street Journal’s Afghanistan bureau chief noticed a longstanding and seemingly inexplicable blooper that had flown under the radar.
“So is one of Kabul’s main streets really called Bad Monkey, as the new Apple Maps on my iPad claim?” Yaroslav Trofimov tweeted on Sunday. A screenshot appended to his tweet showed what he meant: The major street that runs past the Babur Gardens is clearly labeled “Bad Monkey.”
Kabul resident and blogger Una Moore saw Trofimov’s tweet and replied, “I’m guessing Apple based its map of Kabul on old OSM edits, which included plenty of prank names. Jalalabad is probably the same.” Indeed, Trofimov poked around a bit more and found a main Jalalabad thoroughfare that Apple Maps had dubbed “Hillbilly Hameed.” Another Kabul street bore the moniker “MoJo Way.”
A quick check of Google Maps reveals that none of these streets are in fact named quite as entertainingly as Apple Maps seems to believe. In a blog post on UN Dispatch, Moore explains how it must have happened. Her post is worth reading in full, but here’s an excerpt:
Apple had copied old open source maps of Afghanistan’s cities in their entirety from OpenStreetMap (OSM), the site sometimes described as the “Wikipedia of maps,” without checking the veracity of the information they contained. Essentially, it had lifted the earliest rough drafts of the maps. The old maps were created by a small group of Afghan university students and mapping enthusiasts who assigned prankish fake names to streets that lacked official names or were subjects of naming disputes due to decades of overlapping conflicts.
Over time, OpenStreetMap has fixed those humorous errors, according to Moore's reporting—but Apple hasn’t bothered. Search “Bad Monkey, Kabul, Afghanistan” on Apple Maps and you’ll find that they still haven’t. Long live Hillbilly Hameed!
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