Microsoft Improves Bing Maps Rendering

A couple of subtle changes aren't just eye candy. They add a lot of usability and clarity to Bing's online maps, says Microsoft.

Microsoft has tweaked its Google Maps competitor, making it harder for users to get lost.

Bing Maps has been updated to include new "rendering and styling improvements" for its Representational State Transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) services. The enhancements not only make the maps look better, they help users navigate their surroundings better, claims Microsoft.

The revamped Bing Maps feature "new gradient coloring for land areas that adjusts the brightness to your zoom level," announced the company via its Bing Dev Center Team Blog. "The land color will now be lighter when zoomed out and get darker when zoomed in at higher levels of detail."

Before and after images supplied by Microsoft show a more polished and uncluttered look to Bing Maps. Forests, bodies of water and other landmarks are easier to discern at a distance, with crisp borders and other topographical features. The names of states and cities, along with other labels, are easier to distinguish.

"Not only do these updates improve the overall aesthetic appeal of the maps, but they also help increase the contrast, making streets and other features more visible," said Microsoft.

The changes also include perks for hikers, cyclists and others that venture where cars are generally not allowed. "New styling helps clearly differentiate park trails and pathways from roads," stated the company's blog.

In another series of images, this time of New York City's Central Park South area, park trails show up as thin, solid lines. Prior to the update, the pedestrian- and biker-friendly pathways were tough to discern from Manhattan's surface roads.

Big city landmarks show up in solid blocks of color—blue in the case of the Time Warner Center—and city blocks are shaded deeper gray for better contrast relative to their surrounding streets. Eagle-eyed users will also notice the outlines of buildings at new zoom levels.

Bing Maps' improved rendering tech follows a steady string of updates from Microsoft as the software giant vies with Google in the GPS and online navigation market.

In May, the company added more 3D Cities to its Bing Maps App for Windows 8, bringing the total to 96. New locations include Las Vegas; Tucson, Ariz.: Austin, Texas; Jacksonville, Fla.; Reno, Nev.; Richmond, Va.; and Daytona Beach, Fla., among others. Bing 3D maps offer detailed, photorealistic views of select cities that can be zoomed, rotated and panned.

Google, meanwhile, has been working to increase the adoption of its own mapping technology.

In a bid to win over Webmasters, the company released a new Google Maps Embed API that streamlines the process of inserting maps into Web pages. The API grants "developers the ability to generate HTML snippets that embed Google Maps within their own website," wrote the company in a March 11 blog post. "Using the API to take control of your embedded maps, you can now effortlessly customize the location and appearance of the map with a handful of simple URL parameters."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...