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Microsoft Virtual Earth Launches

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Microsoft Virtual Earth Launches

Microsoft Virtual Earth Launches

MSN’s Answer to Google and Yahoo!’s dynamic Web-based mapping tools, Virtual Earth, went live this morning. Needless to say it works better with IE than Firefox (the browser I typically use). It doesn’t have the “wow factor” of Google Earth, which is a client-side application—that’s really an apples-to-oranges comparison. However, it does have some nice features (e.g., “scratch pad,” saved locations, map size, proximity/layered searches), which I haven’t had time to fully explore.

From the release : “When you’re in an unfamiliar city and need to find a nearby Chinese restaurant or ATM within walking distance of your hotel, a traditional Internet search experience won’t give you the visual location-specific information you need,” said Stephen Lawler, general manager of the MapPoint business unit and MSN Virtual Earth at Microsoft. “MSN Virtual Earth provides a deeply immersive search experience that lets people see what it’s like to be in a location and easily explore what they can do there.”

It’s definitely a welcome addition to MSN’s local search capabilities. Intensifying mapping competition—MSN told me they will have an API too—will mean further innovations for consumers going forward. I’ll play around with it more and write more later. Related: Chris Sherman’s lengthy discussion. Here’s more from SiliconBeat and the press release.

Greg Sterling is managing editor of The Kelsey Group. He also leads The Kelsey Group’s the Interactive Local Media program, focusing on local search. Greg came to The Kelsey Group from TechTV’s “Working the Web,” the first national television show dedicated to e-business and the Internet.

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