It started off as a normal week on the Facebook front. When I scrolled through my timeline, it was your typical Facebook minutia--birthday wishes to people you hardly know, ignorant political propaganda dressed up as an overused internet meme, some nostalgic list about 90's fad toys or television shows. But then something peculiar started popping up. Co-workers and people I went to high school with kept sharing some article about Tulsa being the default screen on Google Maps.
Uh, no shit Tulsa is our default location. Hulllooo brainless, we live here. Why are people acting like this is big news? Go back and take another stupid Buzzfeed quiz.
Well, it turns out I'm the one who's actually the idiot. Last week, the people at Quartz solved this mystery that I never even knew was a thing:
Not everything Google does is decided by an algorithm.
Google Maps for iPhone shows US users this map of Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the app can’t figure out where you are located. Why Tulsa? It’s not the geographic center of the US mainland—that’s just north ofLebanon, Kansas—nor is it the center of where the US population lives—that’s Texas County in Missouri.
Tulsa actually sits a few hundred miles between these two centers. Google told Quartz there’s a very simple reason the town was chosen: The app’s developers thought it looked “good.” Zooming out from Tulsa, you can see the entire lower 48 states in one view, whichever way your phone is oriented. Why developers chose the city of Tulsa as the default map, rather than a zoomed out map of the entire US, was not revealed.
This isn’t the first time Google has chosen a random point on a map of the US—the company did the same thing when it chose a small town in Kansas for the center of the original Google Maps for the web in 2005. Sometimes eyeballing it just works.
Fact #1: Before the iPhone 5, Apple hadn't invented its own navigation system, so all devices defaulted to Google Maps.
Fact #2: I lived in the Mayo from 2011-2014.
Fact #3: I had an iPhone 4s from 2011-2014 that I never upgraded the software on, in fear of it deleting all of my precious phone numbers from college friends.
Fact #4: The Mayo, the very place that I lived, was (more or less) the most central location on Google's default map screen.
Suck on that world!! I'm not an egocentric, narcissistic monster who believes the world revolves around them (or at least you can't use this as evidence to prove it). Turns out I had a 100% legit excuse for not noticing anything fishy. And I'm probably one of like, 25 people in the entire world who can say this. Of all places on earth to default to while Google Maps gets its shit together and pings towers to find out where you're at, they literally picked an aerial view of my home to show the world. What's your excuse? There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I never knew this "glitch" existed.