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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yowsers…Bing Maps is the new Black

The new version of Bing Maps (still in Beta) has been built from the ground up on Silverlight.  They’ve integrated not only the features from the original maps software, but also way better image streaming, smoother scrolling, Photosynths, and…wait, did I just say Photosynths?

Oh yes, I sure did.


That’s pretty cool stuff, right there. 

Deep Integration for Developers

Along with the built-in things that are pushing the envelope of what we will expect from mapping software comes this integrated platform that developers can leverage to enhance (or pervert) the mapping experience.


There appears to be 16 current applications that are tuned-in to the user’s current view, coming from a variety of application providers.  Some of the applications, such as Twitter Maps by Bing, are actually doing some pretty cool things to leverage streams of data.  I zoomed into Union Square in New York City and began to see tweet indicators, some adorned with plus signs.  When you hover over those tweets, they cleverly expand to reveal via animation that multiple tweets have come from the same location.


Also interesting is that you can refine your search to only include tweets about certain keywords, topics or Twitter users.  Hrm…not too far from a dating service and nearly crosses the line to stalking service.

Now, on a tangent, it sort of makes me wonder if we aren’t heading into the age of reverse-Orwellianism. Rather than Big Brother watching where you are, where you go, people are actually broadcasting this information freely and readily to the world?  Weird.  I wonder if they even know they’re doing it…have we become that narcissistic?

Oh wait.  I guess I’m blogging, aren’t I?  Perhaps we are.


Some application developers are “getting it”, too, by providing baked-in examples of how their software works and in which contexts.  So, the travel-oriented web cam application has a list of popular (or selected) web cams and will take you right to the place on the globe where the camera is hosted from.  From there, you see all the other served web cams in the area and can view live images from those.

General Shiny-ness

The features flow together well and when you get into the apps side of Bing (are they called Map-apps?) you can start to see some really interesting convergence.

The animations can be quite smooth, though the experiences are always the same.  For example, when you use the Hotel Finder application when focused on an area, it will zoom out, pan over and zoom back into the next hotel you click on.  This is nice, as it give you a sense of spatial relationship to the two locations.  However, when you do a search in the Bing bar, the locations returned are located by a simple pan animation (and it’s really fast on my PC) so you lose a little of the context to the distance.

I must say, however, that overall this is a very slick products as far as betas go.

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