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Google Offers Beta Features In New “Maps Labs”
Microsoft introduced some impressive new features and imagery in Bing Maps at the TED conference yesterday. With its new Silverlight version Bing has advanced online maps to a kind of “next level” (albeit one right now for power users perhaps) that jumps ahead of Google in terms of innovation (i.e., deep zoom, Photosynth integration, video integration, “map apps”). It brings “augmented reality” into desktop maps. There are many ways in which Google Earth has already done similar things but Earth is far less widely used than Maps.
In a certain ironic sort of way it now may be that Bing Maps is to Google Maps as Google Maps was to MapQuest when it first started adding “gee whiz” features a few years ago. Google is now the incumbent, the leader and Microsoft is seeking to outdo Google and gain attention with cool features and new functionality.
Google is of course not going to be complacent and has lots more money than MapQuest had to keep pace. Google also recognizes that perhaps second only to search (and now Android) Maps is a key, strategic product for the company. AOL by contrast was complacent, dismissed the importance of advanced features and let innovation lag to MapQuest’s detriment.
Now Google has introduced Google Maps Labs so that people can get a look at new functionality and Google can get early feedback on potential new features to introduce. Some of the new offerings presented in Google Maps Labs include:
- Drag ‘n’ Zoom
- Aerial Imagery
- Back to Beta
- Where in the World Game
- Rotatable Maps
- What’s Around Here?
- LatLng Tooltip
- LatLng Marker
- Smart Zoom