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When you ignore some of the UI elements, the sometimes prolonged waiting time, and the occasional crashes, Bing Destination Maps [bing.com] seems quite interesting as a new way of rendering geographical maps in a more visually simplified, understandable and accessible way. In other words, imagine one can now create a sort of information-optimized summary maps, similar to those you would quickly draw yourself on the back of napkin.

Users are able to specify a specific location, set the area of interest by dragging the sides of the on-map square, and provide the map with a title. The 'cool' feature allows the selection of a visual map style such as 'Sketchy', 'European', 'American' or 'Treasure' (think about the favorite activity of pirates).

If you have no time to wait for rendering process, have a look at some example maps below.

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24 COMMENTS

I really like this - not only is it 'cool', it actually is very practical - improve the data-ink ratio of the map by taking away streets I don't care about.

Of course, the first time you get lost or are diverted off your course, you'll wish you had the whole map, but there you go.

Recently MS is releasing some really good stuff that's not just a copy of something that Google's done before - video preview on Bing, removal of paging (auto load next results), and so on..

Fri 04 Jun 2010 at 1:56 AM

The road selections are a bit arbitrary-- I wouldn't trust it for reliable driving routes-- but overall this is a great idea. Leave it to Microsoft to add something unnecessarily hideous like that "loading" screen.

Fri 04 Jun 2010 at 3:51 AM
James

Yesss, I hadn't looked at the live product - odd that you can't use it for direction maps, just the destination map. And that LOADING, LOADING, is dreadful. I wonder if the same team was responsible for gradient conditional bars in Excel 2007?

Fri 04 Jun 2010 at 4:13 AM

If the data set is used for browsing the area, I suppose MS needs to have all info loaded as Bing cannot easily predict user expectation. If however a route is being calculated, Bing should be able to do this type of selective visualization automatically. Streets have their 'function classes' representing street hierarchy and from the focal point (destination) an area can be calculated in real time to have it display e.g. all streets within 100m distance but only FC3 from 100m up to 500m distance ...
Instead of using focal point, the display_selection area can also be triggered from the route calculated.

But then again, it is all about data management, meta-data topped with some common sense :-)

Fri 04 Jun 2010 at 9:05 AM
Erwin Vervacke

Lots of kitsch, but Bing Maps is still beating Google in the "let's try some new shit" game.

Fri 04 Jun 2010 at 2:27 PM
Fergie

The link is not working... where can I see it?

Regards

Sat 05 Jun 2010 at 3:23 AM

@leovernazza: go to bing maps, click "map apps" at the bottom, and then "destination maps"

Sat 05 Jun 2010 at 6:45 AM
Johannes

FYI, this is based on RouteMaps http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/routemaps/

I remember that MSN maps had already implemented this feature into their application a couple of years ago.

Sun 06 Jun 2010 at 8:20 AM
srikanth

@leovernazza: Looks like this functionality is NOT available in Bing Maps genuine webapp, but only in the "enhanced" version as a Microsoft Silverlight (tm) plugin application.

So you will only see it if:
* you are on a Microsoft approved platform (currently only Windows or Mac OSX)
* you accept a license agreement that gives Microsoft the right to make change to your computer without asking your consent
* you download and install a massive (more than hundred megabytes) package named Microsoft Silverlight (tm), which needs multi-megabytes updates every other day

Or you can just choose the "Maybe later" option (for the lack a "Certainly never" one) and happily go back to Google Maps...

Sun 06 Jun 2010 at 3:46 PM
Vince

@Vince...this is a cool beta map feature. You're an ass.

Mon 07 Jun 2010 at 6:31 AM
Mindthread

Agreed, 'Loading' screen is a little lame, but this tool goes some way towards making online maps more friendly. Please extend outside the US - there are other places, such as Europe. Perhaps Microsoft has heard of this "country".

Tue 08 Jun 2010 at 3:36 AM
omw

Hmm is this possible for www.openstreetmap.org, too?

Tue 08 Jun 2010 at 7:58 AM
MM

Why would you want to design yourself a map that allows major arterials (like Canal Street) to look like deadends? Using a map kind of presumes you're a stranger to the area you wish to navigate: to make a map real-world useful, I would want to be able to compare its content to the signposting around me. (Look! big green sign saying Holland Tunnel! But I'm on Canal Street and my mini-map says the don't connect! Wha's wrong here?)

Alex makes a good point: the minute you change your mind (accident tying up Chambers Street), you're going to regret that either you or the app' deemed the alt route to the Tunnel via Canal inessential...

Tue 08 Jun 2010 at 10:43 AM
Jean

Vince: thank you for the heads-up.

Happy-clickers: happy pwnage.

Tue 08 Jun 2010 at 2:09 PM
Euro2cent

@Mindthread: Perhaps this is a cool beta maps feature but I wouldn't know because I can't run it. I can't run it because I am not allowed to install silverlight on my PC (company policy). Even if I could why would I want to (as @Vince said this is a > 100mb file)? I really want to like bing but until MS can get their act together I am sticking with Google.

Wed 09 Jun 2010 at 1:21 AM
Jason

Silverlight is 5 megs, not >100.

Wed 09 Jun 2010 at 8:28 PM
Prateek

It looks cool, but I really don't see how it is more useful (at least based on the example shown).

But I am happy to see more innovation and competition in this space.

Thu 10 Jun 2010 at 3:52 AM
Mugizi

Your computer isn't supported

Bing maps doesn't work on your computer
You can use Bing Maps on computers running Windows XP and later or Intel-based Mac OS X 10.4.8 and later.

running a linux box, too bas for me... it looked sweet

Sun 13 Jun 2010 at 9:41 AM
pinguin

I cannot, for the life of me, get this to work. I have no options to create a named area and there's no documentation. And yes, I installed Silverlight and eve that 3D maps thing. Definitely not ready for prime-time, but I love its promise.

Sat 19 Jun 2010 at 7:39 AM

Looks pretty and convincing..

But, what is the point? (serious question)

Sun 20 Jun 2010 at 7:55 AM

This is a great concept, but the implementation isn't ready for beta. The "sketch" views are cool looking, but at the expense of functionality. From the examples I tried, it does a terrible job of deciding which roads are relevant, and which connections to show. Eliminating connections of roads that are shown isn't great, but turning the truncated roads into dead ends, rather than trailing off, is terrible. Not one of the examples I tried yielded a map I'd send to people trying to get to the location. If it isn't useful when someone is vetting the results, it certainly isn't useful for an area you aren't familiar with. It's especially dangerous in those cases, because it looks misleadingly good. The purpose of beta testing is to find problems with a product that aren't apparent without a wider testing base. If Microsoft couldn't see that this still needs major work without releasing it to the public... well, I guess I'm not THAT surprised. My prediction: Microsoft will never turn this into something usable, but after they let it die, someone else much smaller will pick up the idea and make it work for real.

Sun 20 Jun 2010 at 2:45 PM
Craig

Yay! It looks like fun. But the directions are no more dependable than other sites. I asked for a random set of directions and they had me making a wrong turn 4 blocks from home AND they mentioned a landmark -- one that's actually 2 blocks from where they placed it.

Mon 21 Jun 2010 at 2:27 PM
Nathan

Yes, fun. Definitely.
I didn't think of this as useful to provide directions for people unfamiliar with an area. That doesn't seem like the design intent at all.
Local sketch maps like this, the kind you can embed in an email or stick on a flier, are used all the time by businesses and party-givers. They're for people who are familiar with the area in general and just need to zero in on a particular office or store, or friends who just need to "where Joe's house is." On that kind of map, less is definitely more, and these work very well.

Mon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:25 PM

This is pretty darn cool, do we know when the rest of the workd will be exposed to the function?

Thu 24 Jun 2010 at 11:10 AM
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