Over the years, we’ve covered a variety of news stories about Bing Maps (formerly known as “Virtual Earth”). In particular, we were impressed with their “Version 2” cities that included thousands of trees, and the 3D Clouds that they auto-generated based on the weather.
An an example, here is the Orange Bowl in Miami; notice the 3D trees all around the stadium, in the neighborhood behind it, etc:
Sadly, Microsoft has announced that they’ll be removing the 3D maps layer entirely, and focusing more on their Bird’s Eye imagery and other technologies. In addition to removing the 3D layer, they’re also making the Bird’s Eye imagery available without the need for users to download the Silverlight plugin, making it more easily accessible to more users.
One other nice thing they’re doing is preserving 3D building links by automatically redirecting users to the closest approximation of the 3D building they were looking for. As CNET says:
To make sure the removal of 3D doesn’t litter the Web with a bunch of non-working URLs, the company is changing every map link, map tour, and desktop shortcut to simply direct users to whatever part of the map the 3D version had been pointing to. Buildings that had been 3D models before will also become pushpin locations.
It’s hard to say exactly why they’re dropping 3D support, though it’s clear that they’ve not added anything to it in quite a while. After launching a handful of their “Version 2” cities back in 2008, I was anxious to see more but nothing else was ever released. I even contacted them a few times about it and got no response.
Part of the problem may have been that developers simply used Google Earth/Maps much more heavily than Bing Maps, and now Microsoft is retooling to approach things from a different angle. Microsoft didn’t support KML for quite a while, which probably kept more people tied into Google Earth — that’s certainly what happened to me.
In any case, it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here, as Microsoft is certainly doing some neat things. For example, this TED Talk that they gave in February showed off some very slick integration of their various products.
What do you think is the reason they’re dropping 3D support? Did you ever use it or develop anything for it? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.