China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping has named map operators that it deems to be of "excellent" quality in a prelude to handing out licenses to run online mapping services. Google Maps is conspicuously missing from the list, but rival Baidu is not.
The news comes amid media reports that Google may not receive a license for its mapping content. Moreover, Google's overall Internet license is also up for renewal this week and it's far from certain that it will be granted.
The bureau listed 23 operators among those that have applied for licenses, including Baidu, Sogou, MapABC, and MapBar, in five different announcements over the past month. Google Maps was not one of them.
At the end of last year, the bureau said it planned to increase oversight of the online mapping industry. In May, it revised standards it had laid out last year for classifying the quality of online maps and also said that any map provider that did not obtain a license by year-end would have to shut down its service.
The bureau originally planned to begin issuing licenses in June, but has pushed the date back by one month.
The bureau's legislation and industry management department is responsible for rating map providers and issuing licenses.
China has thousands of operators competing in the country's rapidly growing online map industry, and the licensing system reportedly aims to streamline the business. Some commentators have suggested the licenses present China with an opportunity to punish Google for its highly publicized censorship battle with Beijing and its accusations that it was a victim of cyber attacks in China.
Online mapping makes up a small but growing part of the Internet industry in China. Analysys International projected revenue in the country's online mapping industry to increase to $72 million this year, compared to just $8.7 million five years earlier. In April, the consulting group iResearch estimated that Baidu controlled more than 55% of the online mapping market in China.