Bing Maps has added what it’s calling a “significant enhancement” to its Streetside product, but the best version remains the one that’s only available with Microsoft’s Silverlight plugin installed.
According to today’s announcement, the Streetside upgrades are both structural and functional. On the structural side, Bing has eliminated what it calls “bubbles” of street-level views and replaced them a more seamless collection of imagery. They did this by using technology from another Microsoft project called Street Slide, and the new desktop experience more closely resembles how Streetside works in the Bing iPhone/iPad apps:
In the past you explored Streetside imagery by navigating between “bubbles,” or discrete 360 degree views, and moving down the street was accomplished by jumping from bubble to bubble….
This new style, on the other hand, keeps the immersive experience but adds smooth left/right panning navigation that makes it easy to find what’s nearby more quickly. The street flows by as a series of smooth ground-level photographs so now you simply pan up and down the street to see the neighborhood and find what you are looking for.
Bing has also added a “U-turn” button that lets users flip around to see the other side of the street. A thin map strip above the Streetside images tells you where you are on the map, but the inability to move the marker to an exact spot is frustrating.
The most immersive Streetside experience on the desktop is the one that’s available in the Silverlight-enabled version of Bing Maps. Here, you can move around in 360-degrees and have more freedom to explore where and how you want.