A few months ago, Google launched 45° imagery for select cities through its Google Maps API. In February, Google launched this new way to browse maps as an experimental feature in Google Maps Labs and starting today, this bird's eye view imagery will be available for all users by default. These high-resulution images - which are currently only available in a select number of cities in the U.S. and South Africa - will automatically appear once users zoom in to an area while in satellite mode.

For Bing, a similar bird's eye view feature has long been one of the differentiating features of Microsoft's mapping product. For the time being, Bing's bird's eye view is available in more places, but otherwise, the feature sets of Google's and Microsoft's products are very similar. Just like Bing Map, Google also allows users to rotate images and see a location from different angles, for example.

Overall, this is nice update to Google maps, as it allows users to zoom in closer and see buildings and other locations with more detail. As Google's Randy Wilson - a member of Google's Imagery Team - notes, "even when looking at familiar areas, seeing driving directions overlaid on 45° imagery will give you a whole new understanding of the neighborhood."