Bing has unveiled some changes to Bing Maps today that give users a much better view of the street. The newly improved Streetside feature in Bing Maps doesn't just show you the street, but lets you pan up and down it with a seamless, panoramic view of the surrounding location.
It's easy to see this update to Bing Maps as something that Microsoft hopes will differentiate the product from Google Maps - the former offers Streetside View and the latter offers Street View. And lest one make too much out of the different names here, it definitely feels as though the update to Bing Maps gives you a better glimpse from the side of the street, not just from the street itself (or from a vehicle snapping photos to build those very maps).
In unveiling the update, Microsoft said, "In the past you explored Streetside imagery by navigating between 'bubbles,' or discrete 360 degree views, and moving down the street was accomplished by jumping from bubble to bubble."
Now the navigation through the map is smoother, and you can easily pan up and down the street. Above the street view is a map so you can keep track of where you are via the visual cues from the photography or via a more traditional map of streets and addresses.
This new feature is the result of technology developed by Microsoft Research's Street Slide project, which ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick called "better than Google Street View" when he wrote about a video demo of the technology last year. For its part, Google has sent its Street View vehicle all over the world, raising numerous privacy concerns along the way. Bing Maps' Streetside isn't available everywhere yet, but if Microsoft wants to take on Google in this realm, it will have to make sure its mapping cars aren't too far behind.