Fascinating study by Justin O’Beirne on how Google Maps changed from 2010 to 2016 – fewer cities, more roads, and not a lot of balance between them on a map at the same zoom level.
Unfortunately, these “optimizations” only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances already in the maps. As is often the case with cartography: less isn’t more. Less is just less. And that’s certainly the case here.
As O’Beirne also notes, the changes were likely made to provide a more pleasant viewing experience on mobile devices.
I understand his point of view – the included examples really make a solid case – but I can also see why Google may consider the average user (looking up points of interest nearby, starting navigation on their phone) and think that most users don’t want that kind of cartographic detail anymore.
It’d be interesting to see the same comparisons between Apple and Google, as well as between old Apple Maps and Apple Maps today.