Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Comparing MSN Virtual Earth with Google Maps

Posted in Computers & Technology,Google,Google Maps,Microsoft by Elliott Back on July 24th, 2005.

MSN’s new beta of Virtual Earth seems like a better solution to mapping than Google maps, but you’re about to see just how much better it actually is. We’ll use the Amazon.com Corporate Headquarters as our example here, which is located currently on 12th Ave. S. in Seattle Washington.


MSN VE lets you get at least three times closer to your target than google maps:

MSN v. Google Maps Resolution


MSN Virtual Earth seems to know more about what a property is than Google Maps:

MSN v. Google Naming

Cool Interface:

Virtual Earth has a cooler semi-transparent overlay at the top, compared to Google’s blase and clunky “one thing after another” approach:

MSN v. Google Interface

Not to mention that MSN Virtual Earth also has built in “locate me” and blogging features. Wow! aThese are just my first impressions, but it seems like Microsoft has built a Google-Maps killer!


MSN Virtual Earth is down? At least, this morning, it’s not responding to ping:

Pinging virtualearth.msn.com [] with 32 bytes of data:

Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.

Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss)

For more on MSN Virtual Earth check these out (from Scoble):

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 24th, 2005 at 12:34 am and is tagged with . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.

35 Responses to “Comparing MSN Virtual Earth with Google Maps”

  1. JDintheOC says:

    My complaint isn’t so much with the aerial view but with the on road views. Photos taken near my house are crystal clear and look hi-res, but others taken in other areas look as though the camera was pointed directly towards the sun making the images very difficult to see, almost like there was a heavy ground fog.

  2. Ali of Arabia says:

    look theres nothing cool about virtual earth cuz its much slower and doesnt give high resolution photos of other than USA— i live in lebanon and google earth gives more options, more quality, more recent , and best mapping software.

  3. Luke says:

    Looks like a bit of an MSN Fanboy article here…

    Agreed the zoom level provided by Virtual Earth (at least at the time of publishing) is higher than Google Maps.
    The labelling point is a very soft case – both labelled the subject building accurately, and Google Maps even labelled the surrounding streets (which Virtual Earth, at least in your example shot, did not do)
    And, let's be honest, who really cares about the semi-quasi-kinda-transparent bar at the top of the screen?

    Three points raised to suggest that Virtual Earth is better than Google Maps.
    Only one valid in that regard, and one which seems to prove the opposite (with the third one being nothing but fluff).

  4. sf says:

    Another random comparison – my town.

    Yeah. Virtual USA. Google has lots and lots of hi-res images all over the world. Microsoft has only few higher-res images than Google for a bit of USA, but elsewhere they suck.

  5. Lucas Jodokast says:

    im in Australia and same deal with what that alaskan guy said, with google earth i can see my house and car, where as VE i cant even see my suburb (Virtual US is a much more appropriate name) lol

  6. udi says:

    the comparison is interesting but I live in Australia where Google wins almost every time. the MSN product might have more streets marked but even if I use it to locate a place, I then use GoogleEarth because it has better resolution and colour.

    I have lived in many places including many countries and recently tried to find some of my old homes on both VE and GE. Capital/Major cities worked reasonably well but in many cases, neither product was any use. When my searches in Western Australia yield as good a result as those in Manhatrtan NY, I will be, like many others, very impressed.

  7. Mael says:

    My first impression in comparing the two services is that Google maps is just plain more intuitive to use. I copy a paste a lat long into the search and google just works and VE tells me Montreal is in South Carolina. I did some cursory looking and found a way to pin point using lat and long via virtual earth but it sucks that it isn’t as functional as Google Maps from the get go. I like the push pins but I still dislike that I can’t just place one and drag it where I want it to be and then identify it. Neither service provides a very good way of placing locations.

    I like the Google interface for switching to Hybrid and Satellite views. Calling the satellite view the “birds eye view” just to be different just caused me to waste my time puzzled as why VE didn’t have a satellite view. Intuitiveness is where Google wins. Microsoft needs to learn a few things from google and stop burying useful features in levels of unecessary complexity.


  8. Jimmy says:

    My name is Jimmy and i am student of graduation i like figth agianst terrorist and i am now live in pakistan, karachi near new karachi. i like this site and this features graphics and much more. my friends says i am net cheetah but i know whats the problem of internet.

  9. zoople says:

    MSN VE:
    -Confusing to use
    -Slow (even on a ADSL2 connection)
    -Can’t even zoom in on Australia
    -GE allows me to see my house, wherease VE, i cant even see my city.

    GE wins i think

  10. Just wrote a comprehensive review/comparison of Virtual Earth and Google Maps:


  11. darren says:

    google maps just feels better. i wonder if ms will make a 3d globe like google earth… google are leaps and bounds ahead and i bet it’ll stay that way and it’ll be all open for developers soon enough! :D

  12. great side design ! Have to look at your css tricks. Post ist also cool

  13. maplover says:

    sure VE offers much more details in certain area, it only limited to certain area. in the place next to these area, the picture maybe is more than 10 years old.

    for example, if you look at San Jose, CA area, the center (downtown San Jose and Santa Clara) looks great. maybe three times better as somebody pointed out. But on east and west side, it looks like ****.

    another example will be those remote areas, say Nevada desert. GM can still offer descent picture of lots of area of interest (ground zero, some military bases, grand canyon), but VE offers virtually nothing.

    If your area of interest is in VE’s hot spot (high resolution area), you are lucky. If not, you better go with GM.

    my 2 cents.

  14. Mathemagenic says:

    My take on Virtual Earth

  15. prampuria says:

    VE (virtualearth.msn) offers good competition to Google Maps.

    VE has an Edge.
    1. Search updates as you move around the map. Pretty cool. At the same time scratch pad will zoom you to the place you’ve stored. So for instance, if you store your home address(NYC) in scratch pad. And you are for some reason looking at the map of San Diego for pizza. All you have to do is double click your scratch pad home address. BINGO. you are looking at pizza near your home. Google has nothing like this
    2. The compass navigation is really sweet and you can zoom in and out using the scroll button on your mouse. I like that.
    3. As far as the pictures go, it depends where you are. In California, DC the pictures are really detailed. Not so much in other areas.
    4. The ability to go back to any location stored in your scratchpad is really kewl. Google needs to provide something like that.
    5. Local search works better than google’s. Try post office, 10003 for an example.

    GM has an edge:
    1. Google’s looks and feels much better than MSN. Drag effect is really cool.
    2. The zoom, animation is so much better.
    3. To and from here directions. In VE it takes you to msn maps. pretty lame.

    Conclusion: VE is rich in features, GM has slight-to-negligble edge in ease of use.

  16. Elliott Back says:

    @fork, my dear, I work for Amazon.com. Our corporate office, as is public information, is located at what was once Pacmed, on 12th ave. S. We also have additional offices on 5th Ave, in Union Station 1 & 2. The MSN dataset here is 100% correct.

  17. brandon says:

    Which site is “better” really depends on what area you are looking at. I tried looking at my hometown (Anchorage, Alaska) on Virtual Earth, and it looked like ****. On Google Maps, I can zoom right into my house and see my truck parked out in the driveway.

  18. fork says:

    check your facts.

    both google and msn tell us that amazon’s corporate office is on 2nd ave, not 12th ave.

    pacmed.org maintains that they do, in fact, have a medical center at that location on 12th ave.

    now which mapping service is incorrect?

    that aside, your comparison is silly and worthless. both sites are driven by differing data sets and looking one single example tells nothing of the usefulness of the service.

  19. orangeguru says:

    Hmmm. Try locating the Apple HQ at MSN.

  20. […] o en mapas para crear una nueva aplicación Web basada en tecnología Microsoft. Algunos sites se han puesto ha comparar Googl […]

  21. Eneko says:

    And for Martin, I am spanish… I hope you will enjoy Spain. Have a lot of fun!!!

    But I will say ok, Google has some satelite images of Spain, but at leats in MSN you can see the name of the cities… :)

    I will say.. Dont be stupid, use both!!!

  22. Eneko says:

    MSN is usign Microsoft Terra Server images. This server has been Online for years…. even before than Google Maps. But of course.. Google is cool. You suck guys.

    I´m glad there is something else than Google. I don´t want to depend only in one product, in one company. I want diversity, because that is the only way we will get the best products ever.

  23. Whitenack says:

    Why Visual Earth isn’t better::
    1. You’re “random” image comparison at Amazon.com is stupid for one reason… its obviously the same image. If you begin to compare imagery else where you soon discover google has much more. They simply don’t allow you to zoom in as tight per their privacy policy.

    2. VE is much slower, and “stutters” when panning and zooming.

    3. Cartography. If you zoom in real tight to a neighborhood, they put white streats against a pale-yellow background…. Why would anyone do that? What were they thinking?

    4. Driving directions lauches you back to MapPoint.? Are you kidding me, how lame is that?

    What is cool about VE:
    1. The simi transparency is cool, but only works in IE. Plus, in reality it only serves to make the app slower by requiring clients to download more tiles and really doesn’t make the app any more useful.

    2. The real cool thing about the sight, which for what ever reason Elliot fails to mention, is the integrated search. zoom somewhere, search for something, then start moving the map around and the search is updated. Now that’s frigging cool…

    I will continue to use google maps until something better comes out.

  24. benoit says:

    What about another random comparison?

    virtual earth NYC

    google maps NYC

  25. Aybkamen says:

    Google Earth gives you closer looks than Google Maps… provides 3D extrusion of the landscape … and has roadmaps of the entire world.

    I live in Mallorca, in a 9m long street that is shown in Google Earth with his correct name on it.

    Till now, I’ve found street names in every place I’ve seen (Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, Philippines…)

  26. Pierre says:

    It doesn’t suck because Microsoft made it, but just a couple of detailed pictures don’t make a good map.

  27. LHOOQ says:

    But Slashdot says it sucks because it’s Micro$oft. So it has to suck, right?

    Seriously, this is very cool. much more detailed than Google cant wait for Monday to really give it a go.

  28. retz says:

    If only both(MSNe & GM) could display a roadmap for other countries like the Philippines…

  29. New mapping stuff: MSN Virtual Earth and Google Moon

  30. MSN Virtual Earth vs Google Maps

    A side by side comparison.
    The post is in Dutch, but the comparison in Flash is in English.

  31. […] aunched their Google Maps killer – Virtual Earth – there is plenty of talk about it – some positive and some negative. However, I can’t v […]

  32. martin says:

    Virtual Earth = Virtual USA and that alone makes it impossible to be a Google Maps killer. I’m in Spain right now for a holiday, and Google Maps gave me a lot of wonderfull places to visit, Virtual USA gave me nothing.

  33. ceejayoz says:

    Pretty cool… a map site battle means we win!

    I’ll be keeping an eye out for a VE API…

  34. Cody says:

    First, there are some known bugs in Virtual Earth that map out the roads incorrectly. Second, VE maps are too light, and GM have a perfect constrast, which is good for printing directions. Also, if you look at the Google Earth product, it can zoom further than that.

    I think Google Maps and Google Earth crush the competition.

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