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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Live Maps become more "live"

Microsoft made a major update to Live Maps this week that introduces a number of new features and improvements to the online mapping service. Users of the service can now export their maps in various GPS formats, see improved 3D renderings, and subscribe to RSS feeds for a certain region, among a plethora of other things. The improvements make it a stronger competitor to other popular mapping services (namely Google Maps), although Live Maps could still benefit from more mindshare from the general Internet-using public.

Seeing the world in 3D
Like Google Maps, Live Maps has offered a bird's-eye/satellite view for some time now (in addition to standard 2D view). But one thing that Live Maps has over Google Maps is 3D view, complete with pretty 3D renderings of buildings and roads. The Live Maps team rolled out "version 2" of 3D view with this slew of updates, which is currently limited to a few select cities: Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver, and Phoenix.

According to the Virtual Earth/Live Maps blog, version 2 includes higher-resolution textures and even rendered trees, in addition to "thousands more buildings" from inside the cities all the way out to the suburbs. "Hundreds" of cities will get the improved 3D view before the end of the year, although 3D compatibility is still limited. On every Mac browser I tried to use 3D view with, it told me that my browser was not compatible—in fact, it is only compatible with IE6, IE7, and Firefox 2 under Windows.

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