When we think about the mapping platforms of search engines, we often think specifically of local use cases - finding out where a business is, or getting directions from A to B. There is another use case, however, which is to understand geography at a more global scale. For example, where (and what) is Eritrea?
Ideally, a search for this term on a map would help us understand where in the world the entity is and what type of thing it is.
Bing's results are reasonably uncluttered and show the country in the centre of the map with clear relationships to neighboring countries. It does not indicate visually that it is part of Africa. That lack of information is somewhat made up for by including the wikipedia snippet to the left of the map.
Google's result is far harder to parse. We can make out the name of the entity but the lack of clear borders makes it hard to understand that it is a country, let alone the relationship with neighboring countries. It also fails to indicate that it is in Africa and there is no additional text to help with this.
Neither presentation makes use of any multiscale insert map (e.g. showing Africa with an indication of where the main map is located).
When we look at a smaller scale problem - where and what is Boston - we see that the Bing mapping style is a little too sophisticated to produce a useful result. The most salient label on the map is Cambridge and there is no context indicating where and in what country we are.
The Google result, while still lacking any indication of where Boston is, is far clearer with labeling (Boston is clearly indicated in the centre of the map).
That being said, as Bing still produces the wikipedia snippet for this entity there is a clear textual explanation that compliments that map providing full context to the user.
What we are seeing here is a one size fits all approach from both products. Given that there are clear alternates for providing geographic context at different scales (one just has to open the Economist to see examples) it would be great to see these mapping platforms provide more intuitive and contextually rich results for these geographic queries.
In addition, the pre-rendered tile approach to mapping is fundamentally limiting. At best, only certain elements of the map can be pre-rendered in this way. The position and design of labels has to be context aware (the context being the view port and search intent of the user). This requires runtime vector computation (either on the client or server).