I'm curious as to how Google Maps determines which cities to show at a given zoom level.

For example, while focused on the U.S. and using the highest zoom level that still shows cities, it seems to show San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Is there anything particularly special about these cities that makes Google's algorithm choose them? Population perhaps (although I'm not sure why New York doesn't show up then — at least for me)? Volume of mentions in Google searches or something like that? A complicated, secret mix of factors?

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We can only speculate, but typically, computer generated maps follow a set of rules meant to prevent label overlap and prioritize specific information type depending on the zoom level.

At the zoom level you are talking about, priority seem to be given to State names (you'll see they pretty much all are shown). Then the second priority is given to the large cities, but only if they can fit without overlapping the state name.

This is the case for cities you listed. California and Texas are big enough to have some space left even after they have been labeled. NY definitely doesn't (at this zoom level).

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