A representative from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping of China has revealed that the bureau will issue the first batch of licenses to Chinese Internet map service providers in June 2010.

The representative also said that by the end of 2010, companies still operating Internet map services without the license will be prosecuted in China.

The new licensing is expected to focus on only allowing Chinese-owned businesses with appropriate credentials to place and produce maps on their websites, thereby adversely affecting any foreign-owned or foreign-invested Internet firms operating in China. Other websites will probably need explicit permission to use government-sanctioned maps of Chinese cities on their respective websites. For lifestyle and travel websites that have in the past created their own maps of Chinese cities, these websites will most likely need to delete those maps and only use official maps from official sources in the future.

On May 17, 2010, the Bureau published the latest revised Internet Map Service Professional Standards, which clarify regulations in various sectors, including qualification examinations, service ranges, quality management, security, and copyright protection. In addition, the standards include maps designed for mobile Internet devices such as mobile phones and PDAs in the management range of Internet maps for the first time.

According to incomplete statistics, there are about 42,000 websites involving in the Internet map services in China and the competition in the market is increasing. However, the quality of these services provider can not be guaranteed, due to the lack of a threshold in the industry. Furthermore, the production of maps is viewed as a security issue in China. Issues surrounding the sensitivity of creating Internet map businesses in China first arose about 10 years ago, but unfortunately most Internet businesses in China apparently failed to conduct adequate research prior to placing maps on their websites.

In March 2009, seven Chinese government departments, including the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, jointly announced plans to start a one-year campaign to promote a nationwide rectification of China’s geographical information market and to fight illegal surveying and illegal publication of Internet maps. In recent years, China’s geographical information services have developed rapidly with an average annual growth rate of over 20% in output. In 2007, the industry scale of China’s geographical information market reached CNY50 billion and it provided jobs for more than 300,000 people.

The issuance of the licenses is an important measure to enhance the bureau’s supervision over the Internet map services. It will help regulate the development of the Internet map industry, regulate the qualification management of Internet map service providers, and promote the healthy and orderly development of the Chinese Internet map and geographic information services.