After a long wait, Yahoo! now has satellite imagery available on its maps beta at maps.yahoo.com/beta (more details are available on their blog post). I’ve written about Yahoo’s maps beta previously, and a major feature that I just love is the multi-point directions. Now honestly, I don’t use satellite imagery very often – it’s usually to understand the geography for new locations so that I can recognize landmarks. But it is really darn helpful in those instances and now Yahoo! gives its users a choice. A few details that Yahoo! provided in a briefing prior to their launch:
- There is high resolution imagery within the lower 48 states in the US
- There is medium resolution for the rest of the world
- The imagery is a seamless, blended view unavailable with other satellite maps
So I put Yahoo’s service to the test against Google Maps and Windows Live Local. Below are the images from our new Foster City office from each of these services. I also tested these services to view my childhood home in suburban Detroit and my former residence in the Boston area. The result: in all three cases, Yahoo’s satellite imagery (which is provided by Aeriels Express and icubed) was not as detailed as the others.
On the suggestion of the Yahoo! team, I also took a look at Redding, California, which they said would show their differentiation (my search was for a Starbucks in Redding). Sure enough, Yahoo! Maps had just as good detail as Windows Live (whose maps was black and white) and blew Google Maps away.
In the end, Google got a lot of the glory for having satellite maps first and continues to entertain us for hours on end with Google Earth. But satellite imagery is to some degree now a commodity within a mapping service – each of the services will continue to add greater detail over time, but it’s become another check box on the feature list.
My take: Microsoft’s heritage in mapping (it’s been the long time provider of maps for businesses via its MapPoint division) will make a difference in the long run. Its wonderful bird’s eye view provides much greater detail than satellite imagery (albeit, it's a little confusing to navigate). Microsoft is also experimenting with street-level views. I’m sure Yahoo! and Google have neat things cooking in their labs as well (and don't forget A9's cool block view), but it doesn’t appear that these players have the depth of resources or the experiences to build new mapping experiences.
I’d love to hear how you use maps – do you switch mapping/local search services because of the imaging features, or does functionality like multi-point driving, saved addresses, and personalization matter more?