Back in January 2003, when I was preparing to drive off from Kleine Spouwen to Iraklio, I used a route planner on the internet to give me some guidance on how to drive to my destination. I don’t remember anymore which website I used, but it definitely wasn’t mappoint.msn.com. And a good thing too it wasn’t. An article on Philipp Lenssen’s excellent Google Blogoscoped site got me to explore the possibilities of Mappoint. That resulted in some strange routes.
First I tried for the all-inclusive route “Kleine Spouwen” to “Iraklio”, expecting that MSN wouldn’t have any idea where Kleine Spouwen was. But it did, it identified it as “Kleine-Spouwen, Limburg, Flemish Region, Belgium”. Wow! I was impressed. It had a bit more trouble with “Iraklio”, as there are many places called that way, but “Iráklion, Crete, Greece” was one of the possibilities it offered, so that was kinda neat too. But then, when asked to show me the route between these two, Mappoint responded with “A route between the locations you entered could not be calculated. One of the locations may not contain necessary connectors such as ferry routes or main roads. Please change one or both of the locations“. Bummer. Oh, well, I thought, probably the ferry routes from Athens/Piraeus to Iraklio aren’t in the Mappoint database, so I changed the destination to “Athens”. Same result. I decide to make it simpler for Mappoint and gave “Patras” as the destination. Still the same result, although the ferry service from Ancona, Italy to Patras, Greece must be one of the most frequented one in the Adriatic Sea. Now I had two possible conclusions, either there were no ferry routes in the Mappoint database, or the whole of Greece wasn’t mapped.
To determine which of those cases was true, I entered a route from Athens to Patras first. This is a land stretch with a relatively old and well known motorway. Mappoint mapped the way nicely from Athens to Alepochori (which by the way is nowhere near the motorway), and then drew a straight line over the water across the Corinth Gulf to Patras, as if there was no road between Mégara and Patras. Anybody taking the advice of Mappoint had better be equipped with an amphibian vehicle!
Next I checked out various ferry routes between Italy and Greece and between Piraeus and the Greek islands. According to Mappoint there are no ferry routes. That was a bit harder to swallow as I make a modest living out of the existence of those ferries, and now I have to live with the fact that a not negligable part of my life for the last two years has been based on an illusion, according to MSN Mappoint.
I concluded that, whatever other flaws where in Mappoint, it was sure that it didn’t know about ferries. But then I went to look at the site that triggered my interest in MSN Mappoint in the first place, and lo-and-behold! Mappoint does know about ferries! It favours them even, sending people off on wild ferry trips even if they don’t need to, like if they are going from Haugesund, Norway, to Trondheim, Norway. See below for what Microsoft sees as the shortest distance between 2 points… Do you now understand why your Windows based computer reacts the way it does?