The battle of maps is on. Following Microsoft’s launch of New York City and eight other cities in 3-D (with “perspectives that few people – apart from Superman – have ever seen”) Google gave their 2-D maps a realworld addition with streetside, showing actual pictures of the streets on the map.
Both novelties created big buzz.
Microsoft’s 3-D maps got thumbs up from many bloggers and critics. However, some thought that it was slow to render and difficult to use. At TechCrunch Duncan Riley writes that the launch keeps Microsoft one step ahead of Google in 3D mapping since 3-D modeling at Google Maps does not currently include photo realism. Terrence Russell, writing at Wireds blog Epicenter, noted that the battle of superfluous mapping features is heating up – with Redmond in the lead once again. However at SearchEngineJournal Arnold Zafra concludes that The Virtual Earth 3D is kinda hard to use: “It may take some time before users get the hang of manipulating the virtual earth to get a closer look of a city they want. And yes, Google Earth is a lot easier to use even for first time users,” he writes.
Microsoft’s move was also noticed on the “other side”, at the Google Earth Blog. On the blog Frank Taylor writes that the announcement, made at the start of the ongoing Where 2.0 conference, was “a shrewd move”. “Definitely something to check out with a SpaceNavigator – unfortunately I’ll have to wait until I get to a box with Windows on it since I’ve got my Macbook with me for this trip. Virtual Earth still only runs on Windows,” he notes.
Meanwhile at GigaOM Liz Gannes is very impressed with Google’s new application. “Wow, this is way cool. Google Maps for San Francisco Bay Area, and cities such as Las Vegas, and New York now have streetside views, with photographs of buildings stitched together in Flash so you can virtually walk down the street,” she writes.
Brady Forrest at O’Reilly Radar is also enthusiastic. “This morning Google gave their 2D maps an incredible realworld addition. Its a street-view, that in certain cities, will let you get a street side view of the area you are currently in. This is not just a static, A9-style image. It will also let you move along the street in a smooth manner and even more amazing it will let you change your angle and continue moving that way,” he writes adding that the Google-team are working with Immersive Media, a company that has an eleven lens camera capable of taking full, high-res video while driving along city streets.
To us, this Battle of Maps is a preview of what web 2.0 and 3.0 will bring. There’s an endless list of applications and products to be launched from online video to web education to doctors appointments.
At Search Engine Land Greg Sterling writes that 3-D mapping and “immersive” environments really are about future applications that become pretty interesting to contemplate. “Think of them as more practical versions of SecondLife, “metaverses” that will offer lots of content, e-commerce opportunities (i.e. Travel) and even social networking in the near future, as connection speeds improve,” he writes adding that these 3-D worlds will play well on TV as the Internet increasingly makes its way into the living room.
By Tina Magnergard Bjers and John Furrier