Today Microsoft rolled out a new version of our map site. There are many new features to explore. Firstly, the site is entirely powered by Silverlight. This means that the user can explore mapping and local data with the full power of deep zoom technology – a more sophisticated look and feel. Secondly, the platform has been re-architected to deliver an extensible set of features via an application framework. For example, traffic is not a feature of the map control itself, but an application that is running in the mapping framework.
While the mapping base layer may look familiar to most users, the zooming model now demonstrates the complete integration of maps, overhead imagery, oblique birds-eye imagery and, new to Microsoft, Streetside imagery. The Streetside imagery introduces a novel 3d experience which allows for a richer and more immersive experience.
One of the applications that is rolling out in this new framework is Local Lens. This application provides access to hyperlocal blog content by identifying key blogs associated with cities and neighborhoods, and by analysing their content to understand the locations (addresses, businesses, neighborhoods, schools, etc.) that are mentioned in their posts.
You can access this application through the gallery of applications by clicking on the
in the lower right hand corner of the left hand pane.
Local Lens, along with a number of other applications, can then be enabled by hitting the application card.
Local Lens covers a number of major US cities and allows navigation down to the neighborhoods within those cities. Here, for example, is a view of West Seattle. Each pin point represents a location (or several locations) mentioned in one or more blog post.
The shaded area under each pin represents a clustering of proximate locations. By interacting with the pin, you can access a mini browser showing summaries of the posts:
The left hand pane can be used to page through days of posts and to access a fuller reading experience.
When a post is selected in the left hand panel, locations are highlighted. Interacting with these highlights will emphasize the location on the map and a click will navigate you to that address, business or neighborhood.
Note how the pins are carried through to the streetside images to provide access to local content right on the street:
In addition to the hyperlocal application, check out the Twitter mapping application.
Additional commentary here.
Update: here is a nice video introducing the new system.