Google Maps underwent a major redesign today and the new street view is pretty fantastic. Now users can drag a little human figure named "Pegman" over any streets that light up blue and get a preview of Street View for that location. When Pegman lands, the whole map view turns into a Street View viewer and there's a button to expand that view to take up the whole horizontal length of your browser.
These are very welcome changes that really help take advantage of the eye candy that is Street View in Google Maps. There's a whole lot of changes that were made today, all with the long-term fight for map users and their ad-viewing eyeballs in mind we're sure. Today's changes are great, though.
Map search is a heated competition between Google, Microsoft, MapQuest (now with OpenID, by the way) and a handful of other consumer market competitors. That competition goes on in both features like this and in image quality.
Why invest time and resources into making map search interfaces better? Because someday this is expected to be a very commercialized part of search. Once this kind of experience becomes widely available on touch-screen mobile devices, expect to see ads all over and even more innovation come to online mapping.