A few weeks ago I compared Google Maps with Yahoo Maps Beta for their coverage of the UK. Today, I’m going to pit these against Microsoft’s offering – Windows Live Local, formerly known as MSN Virtual Earth. Note that these tests are all from a UK perspective.
Aerial photography coverage
Google Maps does have some very high resolution imaging of major cities, but Windows Live Local beats it by offering pretty high resolution aerial photography of just about everywhere in the UK. For example, on Google Maps, York isn’t in very high detail – you can make out the rivers, railway lines and the ring road, but not much else. In Windows Live Local, you can see each building clearly and pick out key landmarks which were too small and blurred in Google Maps. It also had imagery for very rural areas – I was able to see the Three Peaks in Yorkshire in very high detail.
That said, in cities like Leeds, Bradford and Manchester, you can zoom in much further with Google, and make out individual cars. So though Windows Live Local gives you very good imagery across the country, Google offers you adequate imagery but with superb imagery in places. Yahoo Maps Beta offers the same ‘adequate’ imaging that Google does, but it does not get better in cities, even in London.
Google also seems to have the most up-to-date imagery, dating from around 2002, whereas Microsoft’s dates from about 2000. Therefore, if you want up-to-date maps in cities, then Google is for you – but if you want to look at rural areas then you need Windows Live Local.
Yahoo Maps Beta still has woefully out-of-date mapping – looking at York, it still has the York-Selby line marked on it (which has been a cycle track for as long as I can remember, and I’m 22 on Thursday) and is missing the A1237 York Northern Bypass, which was opened in the 1980s. None of the roads are labelled and it only marks out major roads, not smaller ones, thus making it useless in towns and cities.
Google and Microsoft both have good quality maps. All the roads are labelled and colour-coded, and it includes all roads, including those in towns and cities. Microsoft’s maps are marginally more up-to-date than Google’s but they are both less than two years old.
All in all, Google Maps and Windows Live Local are good services, though I personally prefer Google Maps. Yahoo Maps Beta, on the other hand, has a lot of catching up to do.