Virtual Earth: Frequently Asked Questions July 2005
MSN Virtual Earth is an exciting new component of Microsoft's Search vision that gives consumers a deeply immersive search experience where they see what it's like to be in a location and explore what they can do there.
What is MSN Virtual Earth?
MSN® Virtual Earth is an exciting new component of Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Search vision that gives users a deeply immersive local search experience in which they can easily find, discover, plan and share what is important to them on the Web.
MSN Virtual Earth makes location the focus for how people interact with the Internet, enabling users to easily find, discover and plan activities relevant to a location. It takes information consumers want (e.g., weather, traffic, hotels, restaurants, entertainment and photos) and brings it together in ways that enable people to answer the question "What's it like there?"
MSN Virtual Earth will provide a core set of reference points such as maps, aerial imagery, photos, consumer and business directories, and ratings and reviews, and allow the broader community of consumers and businesses to contribute their own location-specific information to create an always expanding, dynamic and relevant local search experience.
What features are currently available with MSN Virtual Earth?
Locate Me link and Microsoft Location Finder application
o Consumers want the most immersive and convenient way to quickly discover and explore their present location. The Locate Me link activates a Virtual Earth application (Location Finder) that attempts to determine the consumer's present location and to launch a Virtual Earth map of that location.
o There are two techniques used by the Locate Me feature:
- If the user is on a computer with a Wi-Fi card, Wi-Fi signal strength from nearby wireless access points can be used to determine location. This is generally accurate to between 50 and 200 feet.
- If Wi-Fi access points are not available, the user has not opted to install client-side components required for Wi-Fi based location, and/or the computer in question does not have a Wi-Fi card, the Internet protocol (IP) address of the computer is used to determine an approximate (less accurate) location of the user.
- IP-based location is less reliable and is generally accurate to the city or county level. In either case, if a location can be determined, the map is updated to reflect this location and a Pushpin is drawn on the map centered on the consumer's location.
- Location Finder is a client-side application that turns a regular laptop, Tablet PC or PC into a location-determining device without the addition of separate hardware. This free application can be downloaded the first time users try to use the Locate Me feature. They will be prompted to install a client-side ActiveX® Control required to support Wi-Fi-based location determining. A user may opt out of Wi-Fi-based location at that time and revert to IP-based location thereafter. Location Finder is also available from the Microsoft Download Center at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads.
o Free for noncommercial use
o Easy-to-use JScript® Map control
Developer resource center
o Accessible from the Community site as well as directly from http://www.viavirtualearth.com, the developer resource center is a third-party Web site from which developers can download the MSN Virtual Earth map control and find other information to help them start creating Web content that incorporates the MSN Virtual Earth service.
o Permalink is for consumers who regularly conduct the same searches or who want to share specific searches with others. By clicking the Permalink link, a URL is created that then can be used to return to Virtual Earth later and re-create map view and searches. The Permalink link can be bookmarked, e-mailed to a friend or copied into a clipboard.
o The vision of MSN Virtual Earth is to not only provide the best and most immersive local search experience possible, but also to provide a platform for consumers to extend their communities into an online world. The Community link was created to help consumers quickly and easily participate in the development of Virtual Earth features and functionality. From the Community page consumers can do the following:
- Hyperlink to blogs and threaded discussion boards about Virtual Earth
- Vote on simple Virtual Earth polls
- Provide free feedback via text regarding Virtual Earth
Aerial photo with labels
o This navigation feature combines real-world imaging with the usefulness of a traditional road map by letting people see aerial photos with an overlay of road networks and point-of-interest information.
o The Scratch Pad allows users to select specific search results and create a list of those results, which can be saved, e-mailed or shared with others. The Scratch Pad will enable users to create itineraries, plan activities, and store favorite places and locations.
o Gaming Pan is a navigational feature that lets users move the map view interactively using an on-the-map game controller.
o Full-bleed refers to the map view inside Microsoft Internet Explorer. The map view is continuous and occupies the entire screen view in Internet Explorer including underneath all navigation, results panes and other features.
Auto-Refreshed Search Results
o As users move around the map, the search results refresh dynamically to give them the most relevant information that pertains to the selected map view.
Yellow page directories
o MSN Virtual Earth incorporates licensed yellow page directories to enable users to find high-quality yellow page listings. These directories have been incorporated into the MSN Search index so users can query the information in broad, flexible ways.
o Users can conduct multiple local searches and have all the relevant information show up on the map together.
o This is an online clipboard for customers to perform multiple searches and plan their activities.
Where does Microsoft get its map data?
Microsoft works with the top data providers to aggregate the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Map data is provided by Geographic Data Technology (GDT) Inc. and NAVTEQ. Business listings and points of interest are provided by Axiom Corp., GDT, NAVTEQ and Woodalls Publication Corp. Today people can go to TerraServer.com for satellite maps provided by U.S. Geological Survey. However, Microsoft is not providing specific details about the underlying technologies involved in Virtual Earth.
What is the business model for MSN Virtual Earth? Is there a charge for consumers to use it?
MSN Virtual Earth will be free to consumers. Microsoft's initial focus is to generate the best possible consumer experience. As MSN Virtual Earth becomes a more rich and content-filled environment, we envision there being many opportunities for advertising and branding, similar to those in the real world.
What is the difference between MSN Maps & Directions and MSN Virtual Earth?
MSN Virtual Earth is the next generation of MSN Maps & Directions. It is a core component of the MSN Search strategy and will create an immersive search experience for consumers in which they can see what it's like to be in a location and explore what they can do there.
What is Pictometry, and when will this imagery be available?
Pictometry International Corp. is the name of the company located in Rochester, N.Y., that produces the oblique (taken from angles) imagery that is being licensed for MSN Virtual Earth. This imagery is expected to be available to MSN Virtual Earth users by fall 2005.