Bing Maps launches a ton of new features

Microsoft has been playing catch-up to Google in the mapping world for a while.  Most of their “new” features are things that Google has had for a while.  Today they caught up with a few more, and even surpassed Google with a few of them.

You can read the full list of new items on the Bing Maps Blog, or get TechCrunch’s take on it.  However you look it, though, it’s a pretty sweet upgrade.  Here’s some of the highlights:

Silverlight Required: While Microsoft obviously trumps this as a positive thing, I’m not a convinced that forcing users to download a new piece of software is a great thing to have.  Of course, Google makes you download the entire Google Earth package, so I guess it’s fair.

Streetside vs. StreetView: An almost identical replica of Google’s StreetView, but with far less coverage.  It does some neat things to smooth the transitions between frames, but it’s very similar.

Enhanced Bird’s Eye: They’ve tweaked the Bird’s Eye view to show 3D models in with the imagery.  It’s a somewhat odd effect, but it works really well.  Bird’s Eye is the one big thing they’ve had over Google for the past few years, so it’s understandable that they’d try to extend that lead.

Photosynth: They’ve brought photosynth right into Bing Maps, with pretty nice integration.

They’ve added a lot of other neat things, but those are the ones that jumped out at me.  As Chris Pendleton says at the end of his postI’d say at the very least things in the online mapping world just got a little more interesting wouldn’t you say?“.

I agree.

A whole bunch of minor updates to Google Maps

Google has just rolled out a slew of minor updates to Google Maps — changing road colors, outline colors, number of roads shown at each zoom level, etc.

TechCrunch summarized it best:

…unless you spend hours looking at Google Maps everyday, you probably aren’t going to realize when a road outline has been toned down, for example. But looking at the side-by-side images, it’s clear to see that the new look is much nice. Gone is much of the clutter cause by darkened street outlines.

Google’s description of the changes:

Today’s changes are intended to keep the same information-rich map while making it easier to pick out the information that is most useful. The changes affect both the ‘Map’ and ‘Hybrid’ styles, and include numerous refinements to color, density, typography, and road styling worldwide. For example, in map view, local and arterial roads have been narrowed at medium zooms to improve legibility, and the overall colours have been optimized to be easier on the eye and conflict less with other things (such as traffic, transit lines and search results) that we overlay onto the map. Hybrid roads have gained a crisp outline to make them easier to follow, and the overall look is now closer to an augmented satellite view instead of a simple overlay.

It seems to be a great little upgrade.  Check out the gallery below to see a bunch of before/after shots provided by Google.