Microsoft just came out with the beta version of their online mapping service, virtual Earth. Right off the bat I must say that I am really impressed, much, much more impressed than I was with Google Maps.
Now, though I haven’t had time to really mess around with it, there are two things that already stand out for me when exploring Virtual Earth.
1. The labels feature. I really like the labels feature that enables one to view the satellite photos with the street names, city names etc overlaid on the actual photos. So if you are looking at the satellite photo of Main Street, Anytown USA, Main Street is actually labeled on the photo.
2. The level of detailed information. I really like if the fact that if you pick a little third world country like… hmmm… I don’t know… lets say Kenya, Unlike Google Maps which would simply show you the country’s name, Virtual Earth not only pinpoints the three major cities, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, but actually includes a whole host of the small towns and villages all over Kenya. This, in my view, is the basic yet most important feature of any map. Maps need to have detailed information otherwise they are useless! Therefore, for those of you in countries outside the US and the UK, Virtual Earth is actually more useful than Google Maps
Now the downside to Virtual Earth is the fact that their aerial satellite maps are not as detailed in terms of the zoom level when looking at aerial photos outside the US/UK. For example, with Google Maps, I can get down to a level where I can view fuzzy pictures of Nairobi city where as with Virtual Earth, the zoom level stops a little over halfway cause they don’t have more detailed pictures. I wonder if they have plans to remedy that?
Now I don’t know if Google is planning to update the details of their maps but looks like Microsoft has thrown down the gauntlet. How will Google respond?
I will also explore these two services a little further and keep you updated real soon…