Google Maps & Virtual Earth

Microsoft and Google both come out with new versions of free online satellite mapping software this past weekend. Google Maps has added the “hybrid view” that lets you see your driving directions laid out on the map itself, which is the feature I’ve wanted ever since they came out with satellite-view. Microsoft has just released their web-based Virtual Earth, which doesn’t yet support driving directions (coming soon I’m sure) but does include a nice (dare I say “Google Maps-like”?) scrollable interface and switching between maps and aerial photography. They’ve an interface for keeping track of multiple locations on a scratch pad, an API for adding your own way-points on the URL line, and a cute zoom-in animation.

One fun feature of Virtual Earth is that some parts of the US have incredible resolution: compare Seattle’s space needle from Virtual Earth and Google Maps to see what I mean. Unfortunately, Virtual Earth’s image coverage is pretty spotty. In spite of the name, it only covers the USA — I’m guessing they’re just using USGS publicly available images right now. Also, for many areas they’re using very old black-and-white images that they’ve then overlaid with color for roads and parks. This leads to a few embarrassing misses like the fact that their map shows Apple Computer’s Corporate HQ has yet to be built (I didn’t see any horse-and-buggies on the streets though, so it can’t be too old).