Microsoft Adds New Features to Bing Maps

Microsoft updates its Bing Maps application with more features, including one that integrates Flickr photos into its Streetside view, which presents an eye-level view of terrain. In the future, Microsoft plans to add real-time video, interior panoramas and constellation viewing to Bing Maps. The Bing road map for 2010 includes an increased focus on knitting together data from multiple sources for its results pages and structuring results more efficiently with help from third parties.

Microsoft has integrated new features into its Bing Maps application as it continues to battle Google for U.S. search engine market share. The latest features continue the bulking-up of Bing Maps that has taken place over the previous few months and follow the road map for Bing that Microsoft laid out in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

One of the new features is a technology preview of the Streetside Photos application, which attaches geotagged Flickr photos to a particular location in Bing Maps' eye-level Streetside view of terrain. Historical photos will also be incorporated, allowing users to see a particular neighborhood as it looked in the past. Microsoft is working on video overlay technology that will attempt to unite real-time video with street-level imagery, something it promises to demonstrate in more depth by the end of 2010.

Indoor Panoramas will extend Streetside indoors, allowing an eye-level survey of interiors such as theme parks and, in Microsoft's example, Seattle's Pike Place Market. On the opposite end of the scale, Microsoft will also incorporate data from WorldWide Telescope to give a ground-level view of the constellations while in Streetside.

"The Web is changing. In the past we have been forced to 'disassociate' all this content from its physical context," the Bing Maps team wrote in a Feb. 11 post on the Bing Community Blog. "We thought there was probably a better way to reconnect all this data with its home, to provide greater context and to ultimately help you use it to make better decisions about things you're trying to get done in real life, not just on a search engine."

At the TED conference running Feb. 9 to 13, Bing Maps Architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas will delve into this attempt to link data within its geospatial context. "We've made a number of updates to the Bing Maps platform to bring this idea to life through high-resolution imagery from outer space all the way down to the front door of the bakery," the Bing Maps team added.

At CES, Microsoft spokespeople gave eWEEK a generalized road map for Bing in 2010: Microsoft will seek to refine its search engine's data ingestion process, attempt to better sense what its users want out of a particular search and structure results more efficiently.

To accomplish those goals, Microsoft will continue stitching together data from multiple sources for its results pages. When it comes time to search for a particular point of interest, such as for a particular restaurant, Bing will utilize an algorithm to semantically analyze reviews and similar sources, in order to offer a dynamic scorecard for items such as "service" and "presentation." For searches such as movie listings, Bing will also rely more heavily on structured data developed by third parties.

The newest applications for Bing Maps fit into that plan by incorporating additional layers of data into what could be regarded as the utilitarian function of displaying a map.

According to statistics company ComScore, Bing carried out 11.3 percent of U.S. searches in January, behind Google at 65.4 percent and Yahoo at 17 percent. In a Feb. 9 research note, Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter noted that "trends continue to be very strong for Bing," even as Microsoft and Google continue to add more features in attempts to increase and stabilize their respective shares of the market.