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MSN Virtual Earth Revealed 408

jeremyw writes "A day before its official launch, MSN Virtual Earth has gone live. MSN appears to have been inspired by Google Maps in this combination of local search and mapping. Virtual Earth introduces a number of interface enhancements to the now-familiar draggable aerial web map, such as the ability to zoom in using your mouse scroll wheel, and a Location Finder to determine your location to determine your real-world location "using Wi-Fi technology." Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble claims the site may not perform at full capacity until Monday."
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MSN Virtual Earth Revealed

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  • by Monte ( 48723 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:06AM (#13149259)
    I hope Microsoft has their virtual earth rotating in the right direction [] this time.

    I tried to link to the original Knowledge Base entry for this, alas, it doesn't seem to be there any more.
  • Hey! (Score:2, Funny)

    by bad_outlook ( 868902 )
    I can see my house from here!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:09AM (#13149267)
    wow microsoft is just leaps ahead of the competition when it comes to innovation
    • Now, why was this parent moded troll? I think it is a very valid point, only spoken in an ironic tone of voice. MS is again showing that they get their best ideas by copying from their competitors. I think everyone would agree that this company has been doing this since they licensed the look and feel their basic OS from Apple back in the 80's.
      • by Momoru ( 837801 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:45AM (#13149487) Homepage Journal
        Except that Microsoft had mapping, local search and satellite data first...years ago. The only thing they "copied" was the dragability.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          and nobody (including ms) really cared about that ms mapping service. Now that everybody knows about and uses google maps, ms comes out with an updated version.

          It's the same as with the new IE version that is rumored to come out soon. MS did not care about it for the last few years (still no png support...), and even announced that html would be obsolete after the release of longhorn. Now firefox threatens their position on the (soon to be dead...) browser market and a few weeks later ms announce a new IE
        • Re:ms and innovation (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Excelsior ( 164338 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @12:16PM (#13150014)
          The only thing they "copied" was the dragability.

          Um, they copied a lot more than that. They copied resizing the map window to fill up the browser window.They copied the general color scheme. They copied the ability to switch between street maps and aerial photos. They copied DHTML layering to show point data on top of the maps. They copied the entire design for searching, navigating, and finding points-of-interest. And they copied it so closely, they made it cross-browser functional (you can damn well bet if Google Maps didn't exist as a cross-browser functional product, MSN VE would only work on IE).

          And they copied the most innovative part of Google maps - tile-based pre-built raster images to assemble dynamic maps. As someone who has developed GIS applications, I can tell you, while this may sound trivial, it is not. Google thought outside the box. The GIS community for years has used vector data to produce one raster image on-the-fly at runtime (like Mapquest). Instead, Google creates small tiled images at every zoom-level they offer and stores them on the server, and thus can produce a map at any location and any zoom-level, and offer it with "dragability". This is a completely new paradigm for interactive GIS apps. The old way does offer some advantages over the new way, but for web-based interactive GIS, the new way is pretty phenominal.

          While the rest of the GIS community was happily working to make incremental improvements to the old paradigm, Google innovated a new paradigm. MSN just copied it. There's nothing wrong with copying (well, until the USPTO grants software patents), but don't mistake it for anything other than what it is.
          • Re:ms and innovation (Score:5, Informative)

            by Deviate_X ( 578495 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @03:00PM (#13150918)

            And they copied the most innovative part of Goggle maps - tile-based pre-built raster images to assemble dynamic ... While the rest of the GIS community was happily working to make incremental improvements to the old paradigm, Google innovated a new paradigm. MSN just copied it.

            I have to say that you are wrong about this being a google innovation, these ideas were developed and online well before either google maps or msn's virtual earth. [] is still in many ways better than what google or msn are offering - i really like th keyboard navigation.

   [] was launched in october 2004 [] google maps came later in 2005.

  • by defkkon ( 712076 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:10AM (#13149278)
    Typed in my home town including specifying that it is in Ontario, Canada.

    MSN Virtually Useless Earth took me to some little town in the US. Apparently, it completely ignored my criteria.

    I love a lot of Microsoft products, but if they're going to compete with the likes of Google Earth and Google Maps, they're going to have to do a lot better than this.

    Besides, the interface isn't nearly as clean and fast. Just my two cents.

    • by ect5150 ( 700619 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:16AM (#13149299) Journal

      Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble claims the site may not perform at full capacity until Monday.

      Would that have anything to do with it?
    • by team99parody ( 880782 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:31AM (#13149410) Homepage
      The part that leaves me with a bad impression is that a lot of core browsr funcationality is broken which makes this really tough to use.
      • If you do a "local search" it brings up a panel with links - however if you shift-click or right-click on those links there's now way to open the new page in a new window.
      • If I hit the back button I don't go back to my previous local search results. Heck, somehow they messed with my browser button so the back button never leaves their site. I remember back when porn companies did this, but I don't expect to see reputable organizationos do this.
      • I can't right-click on the image to bring it up in it's own window -- a normal web-browser feature that is very nice for printing maps without wasting paper&ink on useless headers and footers.
      Basically, this page combines all the limitations of a web brosers with all the inconsistancies-and-difficulty-of-use of a PC application.

      The one thing that made the Internet easy-enough-to-use to make everyone comfortable with it is that all pages worked the same way (back button works) and all links worked the same way (same right-click-menu). Why does Microsoft feel a need to change this?

    • I went there and it didn't load properly, backed out to /. and went again to the site and it came up zoomed to (what looked like) a very specific address in what I think was Atlanta...

      It struck me as the kind of errors you sometimes get with mod_perl and Apache when you don't do things right...
    • I did a search for 'Copenhagen, Denmark' and it only found some tiny towns in US, how rude!! :)
    • and i'm in Ontario as well. I had to give it more information than I would google but that wasn't a big deal.
    • this is typical MS. They are simply trying to copy what others innovate (mapquest => google => MSN). google did a nice re-innovation, while MS is desperate to have something there.

      Give them a couple of more years, and it will probably be good.
    • I ask mostly because I did a search for Toronto and got several options in the US...
  • by philgross ( 23409 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:11AM (#13149280) Homepage
    What have they done to Columbia University's campus map?
    Microsoft Version []

    (correct) Google Maps version []
  • OTOH it could be affected by Slashdotting.

    It keeps forgetting to load some sections of the map, and the scrolling crawls compared to Google Maps.
  • First impression: not bad at all. It actually works in Opera (8.02) which I hadn't expected at all. Well, mouse wheel zooming doesn't, but I don't blame them. Dragging the map works, as does zooming with the widget. The space reserved for the map is way larger than in Google Maps - this is great, Google should take note of it. It also sports a version of what Google calls "hybrid" view, they call it aerial view with labels.
  • The interface is a little cluttered, but it seems to work pretty well at finding where I am and zeroing me in on my current location, even though they were just using my IP address. Any idea how the "wireless" location service works?

    Jerry []
  • by aslate ( 675607 ) <> on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:17AM (#13149312) Homepage
    Looking at London, i see a label with a massive expance of blank map around it. No London boroughs, areas, regions, anything. If i tried to find my house it wouldn't go very far. You can't even zoom in very far.

    At least Google had a great service for the areas they had up, then expanded it to the rest of the world. The MS map seems to have poor support all round.

    And setting aside the international support, this was very slow and seemed "clunky" compared to the Google interface. I do like the scrollwheel support and the use of the same images for various zoom levels, as you don't reload the map on every zoom.
  • At least for international areas, the maps don't seem to be as detailed as google's.

    Also, the interface doesn't seem to be reactive to me, might be slashdotted, but at least with google you can see it's doing something.

    I guess it's a bit early, should probably check again in a few days.
  • by BillsPetMonkey ( 654200 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:20AM (#13149337)
    On the map view, zoom into my hometown near Birmingham, UK using "Road Map" view.

    Switch to "Aerial Photo" view and BLAM! straight in downtown Atlanta, USA.

    It's amazing. I never knew my hometown could do that!
  • More or less says it all. It has some weaknesses-- the aerial photography isn't as good as Google's satellite photos, and it's missing altogether at the highest zoom level. Also some of the image tiles don't load, leaving me with big holes in the map. I'm sure that's something they'll smooth out. Perhaps the only improvement I see is the inclusion of street names on the aerial photography, which is pretty cool.

    Otherwise it is Google maps. I'm really surprised they didn't make some kind of effort to di

  • Who's entirely too envious on someone else for the community they gather and the cool factor they have. Do you think Microsoft wants to change and actually get to the stage where they will listen to their customers and community?
  • These AJAX applications suck when you don't quite finish them; since a lot of core browser functionality that users expect to work stop doing the expected thing.

    I can't right-click to open in a new window on the little links in the DHTML popup and I can't use the back button to get to what I looked at previously.

    Breaking fundemental core browser funcationality like this really sucks - because that consistancy is really the most important thing that made the Web easy to use in the first place.

    • Well, it also has supercool features requiring "A browser that supports ActiveX controls". Maybe Microsoft will soon release a "Tips for selecting a web browser" along the lines of their popular tips for buying a flash media player. []
      I can see the "popular options" already:
      Does it support ActiveX controls? Many web sites offer exclusive content through ActiveX controls; a browser not using ActiveX controls won't be able to allow web sites to harness the full potential of your computer.

      Does it support only
  • Comparing Virtual Earth with Google Maps, it seems that Virtual Earth has far "noisier" data. An example should help.

    Look at this cloverleaf []. The curves are all jaggedy.

    Now let's see what it's like with google. Much better [].

    I know it's probably just different input datasets, but it still is an important thing to have roads look relatively smooth, instead of jaggedy.
    • by Gubbe ( 705219 )
      Think that's bad? Try comparing those scenes in the aerial/satellite views ;)
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

      by Seanasy ( 21730 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:00AM (#13149552)

      They both get their data from NAVTEQ. If you look in the lower right corner of MS Earth, you'll see "© 2004 NAVTEQ." In Google maps you'll see "© 2005 NAVTEQ."

      So, they're using older vector data. They're using older imagery, too. For most places MS uses USGS DOQQs [], probably from 1999. Google, for urban areas at least, uses more recent satellite imagery []. But outside of urban areas, Google uses low-res Landsat imagery which is fairly useless for this application.

      • Not where I live (San Jose, CA). Microsoft is using a satalite image that is roughly 9x sharper and more recent. Microsof t map [] VS Google map [].
        There is a playground in front of my house with yellow umbrella's clearly visible on the MS map and not there on google maps. This playground was finished in 2001. So if I want to impress people showing them an satalite image of where I live I will be sending the MS map. If on the other hand I need to find some location, I'm sticking with Google for now.

        I hope Googl
  • Is this another case of "Some one else did it so we'll do a poor wannabe and attract Joe Nobody"? No wonder Vista is so delayed, they keep making side projects which just can't compete with Google.

    Give up, fix the OS then MAYBE we'll want to use your stuff not just mock you childishly.
  • Well, it doesn't work at all with Konqueror (neither does google), but while google maps works perfectly with Mozilla, the results are varied for MSN. Naturally.
  • by Kappelmeister ( 464986 ) * on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:33AM (#13149419)
    I'm not sure, but I think Microsoft may be living in a bit of denial... []

    On the other hand, it took only a week or two for them to update Flight Simulator!
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:39AM (#13149455) Homepage
    Note the "©2004 NAVTEQ" at the bottom right of the aerial pictures - this company [] provides a lot of the raw data in that area. While the Microsoft copyright is 2005, I wonder why the Navteq one is 2004 - surely they are getting updates from those guys (?)

    Ironically, a few years ago, I put up some satellite photos of my house [] in Colorado ... and the Virtual Earth has the same ones clearly showing the drought of 2002 with a bunch of brown grass [] - not realistic to expect real-time imagery, but I'm surprised not a more recent pass.

    • Navteq is the copyright for the road data that is overlayed. The aerial images are stock USGS datasets.

      Both Google and MSN Earth use Navteq for the roads but google is using (at least in my area) 2003 sat images from a private source rather than the latest 1998 USGS aerial imagery.

      Just another instance of Google providing better data :}
    • It's easy to date photos if you have some frame of reference. In Minnesota we have the Severs Corn Maze [] (get it, maize maze haha, boy can us Minnesotans whoop it up!) They normally do a different maze each year. I looked it up for fun [] and it dates it as either 2002 or 2003 (they just had to have the same map those years.) You can see the past mazes on their web site through the path "Our Story" > "Past Mazes" > "More" x 5. (Warning, total Flash site ahead) Looks like they dug out the "Corn Maze" let
  • by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @10:42AM (#13149465)
    The cars aren't moving.

  • You can install Location Finder to display your current location on a Virtual Earth map by using Wi-Fi technology.

    I don't have ActiveX enabled, natch, so I can't test this little piece of technology--but based on the blurb it sounds like it works via WPS [] which is interesting mostly becuase of what it's likely to do to the WPS competition.

    Can anyone else test this to see how it operates, if the tech was developed in house or purchased, and if it's accurate at all?

  • Visiting the site makes my konqueror crash. Fair enough, googles version also doesn't work for konqueror, but at least it doesn't make it crash.
  • Was anyone surprised that Microsoft copied Google, AGAIN? This is just another example of MS slapping together a poor imitation of someone else's innovation.
  • Wow. Talk about typical Microsoft quality. I put in my address which is in British Columbia, Canada (which Google Maps & Earth has no problem finding) and I ended up in the middle of Nebraska. I had to give it address, city, province and country before it got it right.

    The program feels rushed, and doesn't have the same feel as Google maps. The name "Virtual Earth" seems to try and straddle both Google Maps and Google Earth.

    I've learned from the past not to count Microsoft out when it comes to thei
  • The aerial photos for my area (Bloomington, Indiana) are MUCH older. My house wasn't even built yet(Dec 2002) on these photos. In fact, most of my neighborhood wasn't built, which make me think that the photos are from around 1999 or 1998.
  • If you have a mouse scroll wheel.
  • why wasn't this the headline? MS is so predictible in their marketing driven R&D:

    let's see what's hot these days, and then build a copycat product, and stamp our name on it, which is sure to make it big...

    or not.

    most likely, not.

  • It appears that MS is using different Satellite imagery than Google. At looking at where I live in Connecticut, MSN resolves perhaps two more levels of detail than Google, but I'm sure this isn't the case everywhere.

    Does anyone else notice any differences in their areas?

    In any case, I suppose it's a win for everyone to have more map data at their disposal now.
  • I downloaded it a few days ago. It's now free and even better than the version released last year under the name "Keyhole." It's much less clunkier than google maps. It now maps out driving directions that you can see and print, too. It's a great time killer as well.
  • Why is it that you can view Groom Lake from Google Maps in satellite/aerial mode, but this MSN thing has a No Photography icon over the same area?

  • It's nice to see some competition for Google, but it still has ways to go.

    One problem is that many of the maps are black and white...making it hard to see specific details if they're the same shade.

    The other problem is that the zoom doesnt go where I want it to. Center new york in the map and zoom in and I end up looking at woop-woop in new jersey.

    But at least it works in FF!
  • One thing that jumps right out at me is how much the performance must suck for those with less than optimal video cards. When you double-click to zoom in on a location, it starts scaling the full-screen images, with a semi-transparent sidebar over it. At home I have a decent video card, although at work I have built-in video and it can barely handle the large flashing ads on some websites.

    There's also the whole issue of the satellite imagery being too dark. That's just disturbing. It looks like they too
  • He's Dead Jim (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thanatopsis ( 29786 ) <> on Sunday July 24, 2005 @01:50PM (#13150540) Homepage
    Stop it already, he' dead Jim. I think the servers got slashdotted. Never have seen Google go under in a slashdotting.
  • /. effect (Score:3, Funny)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @04:37PM (#13151386)
    Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble claims the site may not perform at full capacity until Monday.

    So I suppose us visiting it wouldn't be such a good idea. I can see the posting now:

    "Slashdot Crashes Earth"

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!