Less than a few weeks after Google Earth was released, the long awaited MSN’s Virtual Earth has finally been given the green light for beta testing.
After spending a few minutes using it today, I can with a certain degree of honesty say that MSN Virtual Earth isn’t all that special. I was expecting a stand-alone application instead of a modified version of Google Maps. Virtual Earth resides in your web browser, and I was under the impression that it was a stand-alone application.
Currently the only advantages of it are (after 5 minutes of use):
1) It uses the full web browser, so you get more map per pixel on your screen.
2) Using the .3 meter USGS imagery from April 2002 (the same imager of DC that Google uses), MSN’s Virtual Earth lets you zoom in quite a bit closer.
Other than that, eh… It’s better than Google Maps visually, but not as sophisticated as Google Earth.
I am waiting for the inclusion of more layers and the Pictometry‘s 45 degree oblique images. These images will allow viewers more spatial information because you’ll be able to see the sides of buildings instead of the straight overhead (nadir) that most imagery is currently taken at.
There is also a user community website already established for Virtual Earth: https://www.viavirtualearth.com
Regardless, I look forward to seeing the next developments… Like maybe a stand-alone application that’s not designed to find you, but something similar to Google Earth. The hacks will be interesting too… Let the (re)development begin!
Read my Google Earth review here.