Online Travel Maps - a mini review
(this is a blog, not a podcast)
The folks over at TechCrunch (a new media blog site) have been comparing the different map search engines, including maps.Google.com, maps.Yahoo.com, Microsoft (local.live.com), maps.Ask.com and Mapquest.com. The competition is heated and new feature rollouts make comparisons a moving target. Their "winner" (in April 2006) was maps.Yahoo.com, which includes detailed traffic information for major cities and an easy to use interface that includes listing of services, restaurants and other places of potential interest to travelers.
Click Here to see the full TechCrunch assessment, which includes a table that compares the major features that are offered (and not) by each map.
Taking a quick look at all of the different sites listed above, I agree that the maps.Yahoo.com interface has the best combination of usefulness and usability. However, I found that maps.Ask.com has the nicest looking color aerial images of Flagstaff, AZ, which made finding my house much easier on their website than any other. And that oldie but goodie Mapquest.com, which still has a very Web 1.0 static map, had the most accurate street maps of Flagstaff.
To compete, Microsoft has added live traffic indicators to its maps, though it listed far fewer road incidents in Phoenix, AZ, than did the Yahoo map viewed at the same time. And Microsoft has a preview site of for Streetside (at http://preview.local.live.com/; also reviewed at TechCrunch). This site shows front and side photo views of streets in downtown San Francisco and Seattle. Pretty cool, especially if you are familiar with one of those two places (I found my old apartment in SFO!), though the interface is a bit clunky, kind of like playing a very old vide car driving game.
Personally, I think any of them will do a good job in getting you from point A to point B, but these new toys can be fun!
p.s. - I call this posting "Online Travel Maps" to distinguish these from the other maps that geographers are interested in: Thematic Maps, which to me includes GIS.