If you live or spend any amount of time in Washington, DC, you might have noticed a problem recently: Google Maps essentially no longer works here. Sometime in mid-February, it appears that the folks behind the previously-amazing mapping service updated the address parser that it uses, and at this point the parser doesn’t have any clue how to understand the one-letter streets and quadrant system that’s used throughout the District of Columbia.

Take this map link, which is supposed to show 500 E Street SE (the address of our local police station). You don’t have to be eagle-eyed to see that that’s not the address the map shows; here’s a MapQuest view of the distance between Google’s mapped location and the true one, nearly five miles away. Try to use Google Maps to locate any address on a lettered street in the District, and you’ll get the same result.

I’ve avoided posting about this for a little bit in the hope that Google would get around to fixing it… but there are a half-dozen posts or threads in the Maps troubleshooting group, dating as far back as the last week in February, that have gone completely unanswered by Google. Similarly, I’ve personally had email correspondence with “The Google Team” which reassures me that “they’re aware of the issue” but neglects to mention anything about whether they care about the issue, despite me pressing the question and getting a similarly cookie-cutter reply. Since our house is on an essentially-unmappable street, none of the map links I’ve sent people over the past year work anymore, and Shannon and I have pretty much stopped using Google Maps for any of our regular direction-finding for trips out and about on weekends.

I know Google is a huge company now, and that it’s hard for them to reply to the concerns of individual users, but when a change they made causes one of their larger products to stop working entirely in a reasonably large and well-traveled city, you’d think that they’d get hop onto fixing that. So far as I can tell, though, you’d be thinking wrong.


Hi Jason, I’m a software engineer at Google. I’ll ask some maps folks about this.

• Posted by: Matt Cutts on Mar 28, 2007, 12:47 AM

That’s weird, gniv — that example now works, but a ton of others don’t. For example: 812 C St SE, which is an address along my street (my own address also doesn’t work).

It’s unclear how they managed to break the parser, but alas, it’s broken.

• Posted by: Jason on Mar 31, 2007, 7:36 PM
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