Microsoft recently made the blunder of misplacing the Australian city of Melbourne on its Bing Maps by placing it in the wrong hemisphere. The error didn't go unnoticed and the reason behind the rather significant slip-up was even more interesting.
As we all know, Melbourne lies in south east Australia (37° 48' 50" South, 144° 57' 47" East to be precise), however, it seems one of the largest computer companies in the world failed to plot the famous city correctly.
As discovered by The Register, the coffee-swilling, cosmopolitan city was found to be floating in the North Pacific Ocean, off the east coast of Japan. Something was clearly wrong.
When Microsoft was alerted to the issue Bing Maps' senior programmer, Ricky Brundritt, responded with an answer that was simple, yet slightly dumbfounding. He explained the glitch was down to a "missing negative sign in Wikipedia data", which explains why Melbourne was flipped northwards.
Case closed. Well, hang on. Did Microsoft just reveal it uses Wikipedia data to create its maps? Wikipedia, after all, is the encyclopaedia that allows anyone to edit its pages. This is a worry for anyone using Bing Maps to get around, not to mention chaos for anyone taking a geography test.
Brunditt said Microsoft doesn't rely on Wikipedia data much, "only for rich description on map website", but then went onto further explain the issue "was limited to a few regions as duplicate entries for this result were in data".
Essentially, this error is a rare one and the issue has since been fixed but it still exposes the worrying fact Microsoft uses Wikipedia information on occasion to maintain its maps. Are those problems we can see down the road?