Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Which Earth?

Now that there are several options for viewing online global map data, which one is best? Well, I'm not going to answer that at the moment as it really depends on what you want out of the service as some are better at some things than others.

So, what's available? Well, the main players for online aerial data maps are Microsoft Virtual Earth and Google Maps but there are others such as Yahoo! Maps and Ask Maps & Directions. These are definitely the big four in the field at the moment with probably Virtual Earth leading by a nose.

If aerial data is what you're after then Flash Earth is well worth visiting as it allows you to view maps from Google Maps, Virtual Earth, Yahoo! Maps, Ask.com and a few others and you can switch between those providers at the click of a button. This is great for comparing the services as each has its strengths and weaknesses and sometimes you'll find one has better map data for a particular location.

Flash Earth
Flash Earth also uses a consistent interface for all provider maps so you don't have to change how you use it. e.g. you move the map by clicking and dragging, pressing the arrow keys or clicking on the compass points. Zooming in and out is done by dragging a slider up or down, using the + or - keys or your mouse scroll wheel and rotating is as easy as dragging the compass edge around.

Still lurking on the sidelines are the more traditional mapping sites like Mulitimap, streetmap.co.uk and Ordnance Survey Get-a-map. These are all fine for street maps in built up areas and they all use Ordnance Survey data for more detailed maps, which is invaluable if you're into a bit of hill walking like me. Of course there are loads more, especially if you're after driving directions or specialist weather conditions. Have a look at my del.icio.us map tagged links for loads more map related sites.

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