Microsoft teams with Navteq to expand their Streetside coverage

When Microsoft launched Streetside a few days ago (a direct competitor to Google’s StreetView), I wondered how they could possibly catch up with the huge amount of coverage that Google already has in place.  Their answer: Navteq.

Navteq has vehicles on the road all the time, collecting road data (speed limits, bridge heights, etc).  Microsoft plans to “strap a few cameras on their vehicles to record some photos”.  It certainly seems like a great way to start playing catch-up.  I still imagine it’ll be quite a while until they have anywhere close to as much imagery as Google, but this gives them a solid plan to start gaining some ground.

They also revealed that they’ll be doing monthly releases of new Streetside imagery, similar to their monthly aerial/satellite releases.  Those releases tend to be rather impressive is their coverage, so we’ll see if their Streetside releases can match that.

Like most of these kinds of battles, the winner will be you.  Both companies will work hard to add better features and greater coverage, and we get to reap the benefits.  Kinda nice. :)

Google Chrome and the Google Earth plug-in

As you’ve probably heard, Google released “Chrome” today, their new web browser.  Thus far, I am very impressed with it — it’s amazingly fast.

However, I can’t get it to work with the Google Earth plug-in.  Considering that the browser is based on Webkit, and Safari didn’t yet work with the plug-in, it’s not a big surprise.  Still, it’s kind of sad that Google’s product can’t work in their own browser.

Anyone found a way to make it work yet?

Update: Google confirms that it doesn’t work, but promises an update is “coming soon”.

MapQuest is trying hard to hold on

Despite being far behind in features, MapQuest has been remarkably resilient in holding onto their market share.  Google Maps continues to catch up, but is still below half of the market share that MapQuest is holding.

However, MapQuest continues to try to catch back up.  Today they’ve released a new beta version of their site, and it’s certainly a step forward.  The biggest change is that they’ve put a map directly on the home page, rather than forcing you to search or get directions.  The map includes some useful layers (gas prices, traffic) and seems pretty solid.

Another nice change is the option of “copy and paste” address input.  Rather than having to put each element in a separate field (address, city, state, zip), you can drop them in a single box (just like you already could on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft).

Maybe we can chalk it up to being beta, but even the basic map usage still lags behind the others.  There are two basic functions that are missing:

  1. I can’t use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out.
  2. The zooms are hard breaks, rather than the smoother zoom used by Google and Microsoft.

As we’ve said before, it’s great to see them trying to catch back up.  Is it too little, too late?  Or will these kinds of steps be enough to hold onto their audience?  They promise many more upgrades in coming months, so we’ll see what happens.

Panoramio brings a new way to view photos

Well, new to them at least.  Panoramio has brought out a new feature to allow you to “Look Around” some landmarks using a very simple, intiuitive interface.  As Google Earth Blog points out, this feels very similar to Microsoft’s Photosynth.  In addition, as Google System points out, it’s not nearly as cool.

I’m a bit disappointed that this doesn’t yet work in Google Earth.  I was picturing something much more similar to Photosynth, where you could interact in a 3D world.  Still, it’s a very nice start and works very well.  The transitions between photos are very smooth and really help illustrate how the photos are related to one another.

Some places to check out, as suggested by the Panoramio blog:

Update: A little more info is now up on the Google LatLong blog.

Minnesota city demands removal of StreetView images

The 4,500 resident city of North Oaks, MN has demanded that Google remove StreetView imagery of their town.  However, they’re not a typical town, in that all of their roads are owned by the residents (meaning they’re private) and the city enforces a trespassing ordinanace.

While it’s certainly unique, since no other city has made a similar request, it seems that they’re well within their rights to request that, since the roads are private.

It makes me wonder if other cities (with public roads) will request this.  It would be interesting to see what happens with those.