While Bing has released many competitive features in the past, one of their more successful is Bing Maps. Microsoft is continuing its enhancements of this feature with a new interface and a new base road map style.
The New Interface
Bing Maps' new interface aims to take all the navigation options that were previously scattered all across the page and put them in a single, easy to use location.
All of the key features can now be found in a toolbar across the top of the Bing Maps page. Using this toolbar, you can quickly access directions, starred locations, "map apps" (like local events, streetside photos, and a hotel finder), overlays (such as current traffic), and point of view (with both a 45 degree and bird's-eye option).
Additionally, the interface is being customized with region-specific options. As one example, "Bing Maps users in the UK will still have access to the London Street Map and Ordnance Survey styles [...] via the vector style drop-down," according to the Bing Blog entry announcing the new layout.
The interface changes have been in testing for several months and are now seeing a global rollout. The new interface is available in the U.S. and UK as of right immediately now.
New Base Road Map Style
Just one day after announcing the new interface described above, Bing followed up with a completely new version of their base road map style. This new style makes the maps easier to read thanks to new font, color, and size choices on labels, more clear definitions on traffic overlays, and the use of different color schemes.
Users can expect to see "primary roadways denoted in a more distinct color," "one way streets [...] clearly marked," and much more, according to the Bing Blog entry announcing the update. The biggest changes are for the roads themselves, where labels more visibly give each road's name and casing prevents the road itself from blending into the map, and overlays, where high-contrast colors and new designs are being used to make information easier to view at a glance. Users interested in learning about all the updates can check out a guide to the changes released by Bing.
It's clear that Bing has decided not to fight a war against Google on every front, allowing Microsoft to put all their weight behind the products that can truly provide a competitive edge. Bing Maps is a great example of this, providing – especially after this most recent set of updates – a unique and feature-rich experience for local map exploration.