Archive: July 27th, 2005

Battle of the maps

Microsoft have launched Virtual Earth, their new web-based, Ajax-fuelled mapping application.

Apparently they’ve been working on this for quite some time but of course, now that it has debuted after Google Maps, it seems like Microsoft are playing catch-up.

Virtual Earth works quite well although it doesn’t quite look and feel as polished as it could be. Still, it does have some nice features. Try navigating by clicking, holding and dragging within the compass.

There’s one area where Virtual Earth seems to have the upper hand on Google Maps: there’s a whole website dedicated to the API. It’s run by Dr. Neil Roodyn, who seems to be quick off the mark in responding to feedback. I wrote to him not long after the site went live to point out the JavaScript file he was linking to over on MSN was unreachable due to a server redirect. He immediately hosted a copy of the file.

[MInd you, I just went over to the site to find that file and the whole thing seems to be FUBAR. The links in the sidebar aren’t actually links anymore. Ouch! There I was, all set to praise the site and now I find I can’t navigate around it.]

I wonder if anybody will build anything with the API as cool as what Eric did with Google’s.

To be honest, I got more excited about Virtual Earth from watching a video of the developers than I did by the application itself. It looks like some of the best features are yet to come. The eagle-eye view should be pretty nifty. These video interviews that Robert puts online are well worth checking out (hint, hint, Apple).

Here’s one big plus point for Virtual Earth: it works in Safari and Firefox, straight out of the gate. Remember, Google Maps wasn’t available for Safari to begin with.

So, while Microsoft’s newest offering is far from perfect, credit where credit is due: there isn’t an ActiveX control in sight and the API is available and documented. Not too shabby.