Google competitor lets users take a virtual walk around town.
In an effort to match one of Google's most popular features, Microsoft has added tools to Bing Maps that give users a continuous, street level view of many parts of the country.
The new experience, which Microsoft is calling Streetside, goes a step further than Google's Street View in that it can layer posts from Twitter and other third-party services atop the "physical canvas" behind the street imagery.
"The first thing this canvas allows us to do is provide a seamless exploration of your physical world," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's senior VP for Online Services, in a blog post Wednesday. "From outer space to the street outside your favorite coffee shop, the new maps view lets you zoom, pan, and move around with ease," said Nadella.
Microsoft is releasing an Application Gallery for Streetside that will connect it with Twitter and other services. Third-party mashups like Stweet link Twitter and Google Street View, but Microsoft is offering the integration directly.
The Twitter application automatically overlays Twitter posts onto their originating locations on the map. That allows users to not only read about, but see, what their friends are experiencing.
Another app, Local Lens, links blog posts to their places of origin. An app called What's Nearby provides travelers with information about local businesses and other services near their destination.
"Streetside is an excellent example of collaboration with Microsoft Research, Live Labs, and the core maps team to build something that isn't just a bunch of pictures stitched together, but an actual physical environment on top of which we can provide an experience that connects to information from across the Web," said Nadella.
The new services could help Microsoft gain ground against Google, but it's got a long way to go. As of October, Google held 65.4% of the U.S. search market, compared to Microsoft's meager 9.9% share, according to market watcher comScore.
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