Why digital maps killed the town of Argleton

Why digital maps killed the town of Argleton
As you can see, Argleton is merely
 a bunch of fields in rural England.

Here’s why you can never travel there:

As recently as 2009, in the rural English county of Lancashire, a small town called Argleton could easily be found on Google Maps, just east of the A59 motorway. A cursory online search for the town was replete with websites for businesses, real estate listings, local weather, and even ways to find yourself a hot Friday-night date.

There was one problem, though. If you drove through the English countryside trying to find Argleton, you’d quickly find yourself confused and lost. There were no buildings, street signs, or townspeople just open fields of untouched grass.

The town never existed anywhere other than cyberspace, where it was represented visually by one of Google’s teardrop-shaped pins.

Argleton was a phantom town.


At the time, Google said Argleton’s inclusion in its mapping software was the result of human error, and the "mistake" was soon deleted. The more likely story, though, is that Argleton was an example of a copyright trap, which cartographers have long used to catch would-be thieves from stealing their hard work. In this case, either Google was laying the bait for a competitor (hey, Bing?) or the mystery town was inserted in analog form long ago by Tele Atlas, the Netherlands-based company that supplied Google Maps with its initial framework.

Read more: Trap streets: The crafty trick mapmakers use to fight plagiarism, The Week>>

See the same technique used elsewhere: Lillian Virginia Mountweazel never existed, so why is she in my encyclopedia?>>

Tagged : / /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *