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by Tony Chang

All opinions on this site are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Creative Commons Attribution License

MSN's VirtualEarth

Jul 26, 2005, 11:04pm EDT



By now you’ve probably all seen MSN’s Virtual Earth. It’s nice, there are lots of things I like about it and a few things I dislike.

  • I like the scratch pad. I think it has lots of uses like marking multiple positions in the city.
  • Map position, zoom, searches, and the scratch pad are (optionally) persistent.
  • As you drag the map around, searches update and find new locations in your view. If you’re looking for somewhere (as is the case with a search), this makes a lot of sense. This works well only because you can save locations to the scratch pad. Otherwise it would be frustrating having a location I wanted to remember disappear as I dragged it out of view.
  • Up to three searches at once. It’s a little annoying that information pops up on mouse over, but I’ll live.
  • It tries too hard to be a desktop application. All the floating layers look like small windows, but they don’t quite act like windows (e.g., you can’t drag or resize them.) But they shouldn’t act like application windows in the first place because it’s a web page and it breaks user expectations. To further add to the confusion, the Community link does actually open in a new window.
  • The domain name is too long. I find that typing out is much harder than Why isn’t it just
  • Small UI things like the first search color (purple) and the scratch pad color (blue) being similar (the use of different shapes is a nice accessiblity touch). I also don’t like the word Permalink because it only has meaning to people who read blogs (which doesn’t include most people).

Overall, I’m glad MSN’s Virtual Earth exists because competition is a good motivator for improving both mapping sites.

hairylunch at Jul 28, 2005, 03:25pm EDT seems pretty short to me …

I think the biggest thing I like about it is that their satellite date seems much better … using my residence as an example …

tony at Aug 10, 2005, 11:11am EDT

Heheh, they added the alias

Pat Bergschneider at Jul 29, 2005, 08:50pm EDT

Competition is good, yes… but GoogleEarth is one of the coolest things I’ve seen yet.

Rex StJames at Aug 07, 2005, 05:56pm EDT

It’s true that Virtual Earth has higher-res images in some areas, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, they are also badly outdated - more so than google maps or google earth. I think Google Earth is the best thing since sliced bread. It is just amazing. I love it. I DO NOT like the black and white images on virtual earth. This may seem silly, but I find them hard to look at. This probably isn’t even really Microsoft’s fault (they don’t take the satellite images, after all), but I personally don’t like it.