Null Island: The Busiest Place That Doesn't Exist

Chris Higgins
YouTube // MinuteEarth
YouTube // MinuteEarth / YouTube // MinuteEarth

At the GPS coordinates 0,0 you can find Null Island, a largely theoretical place accidentally invented by lazy computer programmers. It's a thousand miles off the west coast of Africa. And although Null Island doesn't actually exist, computers run into this "location" all the time.

Null Island exists primarily because of technical problems in distinguishing "no information" (NULL) from the number zero. Often, lazy or inexperienced programmers simply use zero when they really mean NULL, with the result that computers show real-world things (people, businesses, etc.) popping up on the ocean near Africa, at least momentarily.

The story of Null Island is a cautionary tale with real-world ramifications—including US citizens in Wisconsin being assigned a Null Island location due to sloppy programming. And then there's the problem of people whose name is literally "Null," for whom it's hard or impossible to create an account on lazy-implemented websites in which the name "Null" might equal the concept NULL.

If you have two minutes for a simple explanation, tune in to MinuteEarth for this cute video exploring Null Island:

(Did you notice the Lost Easter egg around 0:35?)