Along with the launch of the new Ask.com yesterday, the company introduced an upgraded mapping product that now looks very much like Google Local and Windows Live Local. It offers aerial and "hybrid" views in addition to the standard mapping view. Here’s my hotel in New York. We’re releasing a mapping report today and the Ask relaunch was too late for us to "stop the presses," but we’ll review in the Local Media Journal.
The fact that Ask has done this (in addition to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft — MapQuest coming soon) means dynamic mapping is now "table stakes" for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in local. And that means directory publishers and newspapers need to tap into the APIs out there or build their own (probably not a good idea).
Simultaneously, Windows Live Local has just added a "street side" view to its already rich set of mapping views. In my preliminary look at it tonight on the exhibit hall floor of SES, it appears to be a richer, more dynamic version of A9’s block view, which has the novelty of several perspectives built into it (race car, sports car and walk). You can drag the cursor around and change views with relative ease. San Francisco and Seattle are the only two cities offered right now but I’m sure Microsoft intends for this to cover most cities across the U.S.
One cannot yet move from the street level view to bird’s eye. I expect that will come in time. But with this new set of tools Microsoft may become the first company to put all the potential map views together into a truly integrated experience. Visually the Windows Live Local mapping product is probably the richest on the market, although Microsoft has some work to do on the underlying mapping basics to get it completely right.
Garry Wiseman, who is in charge of Expo will be on the "mashups" panel at Drilling Down.