Microsoft just released a major update to Bing Maps. Bing Maps now offers draggable routes that are computed dynamically, a zoom bar, embeddable maps, smarter command parsing and a redesigned interface. The new version of Bing Maps also loads faster. Microsoft now hosts the service in 7 data centers around the world and the Bing team has brought the size of the default Bing Maps home page down from 678kb to 484kb. Just like Google Maps, Bing Maps now also understands more complex queries like "Bellevue, WA to Space Needle."

Draggable Routes

Draggable routes are nothing new, of course. Google Maps has offered this feature for quite a while. Compared to Google Maps, the Microsoft implementation of this feature is slightly more difficult to use. Google Maps always displays a little button on a route that moves relative to the user's cursor. On Bing Maps, users have to be more precise when it comes to grabbing a point on their route where they want to deviate from the computed route. Still, this is a welcome addition to Bing Maps.

Embeds

Embedding Bing Maps is now as easy as clicking one button and copying and pasting the embed code. The best feature here is the ability to customize these embeds. Users can select different sizes, whether to display a static or draggable map, as well as different map styles (road map vs. satellite imagery). Bing Maps also generates a link to the map that can be shared by email.

 

As Google continues to enhance its mapping products and now even produces its own map data in the US, Bing Maps and others will have to stay on their toes. This update to Bing Maps mostly brings Microsoft back on par with Google with regards to features.

Bing always offered a number of features that Google didn't offer, including high-resolution aerial photos, and a Google Earth-like 3D view with 3D models in the browser. Currently, however, Google is adding more features (like traffic for more roads) and improving its maps at a faster rate than anybody else and it will be interesting to see if Microsoft will be able to keep up with this pace.