Available at http://www.bing.com/maps/explore/, the Map Apps feature adds a dazzling array of searchable restaurants, businesses, hotels, traffic and neighborhood information. The architecture is highly browsable, allowing quick access to information in a highly appealing format.
The rollout also contains a bevy of highly addictive toys. For fun, Bing offers “Twitter Maps” – the ability to see local Tweets in either a “recent” or real-time format from Twitter. Even if everybody in a given neighborhood is just spouting nonsense, the interface, which is built in Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, is hard to put down. It may not be practical, but it is, hands down, the most enjoyable way to experience Twitter so far.
The Maps Apps experience gets significantly more fun and quirkier from there. “Roadside Sculptures” is just what you’d expect, as are local “Urban Graffiti,” “Urban Murals” and “Signs and Billboards” are, at least for the mega-cities, incredibly entertaining. This is a search engine with major personality.
So what’s the point?
Maps Apps will get a lot of use. Skyrocketing search queries will mean an incredible number of ad impressions, which will in turn create significant revenue opportunities that may even, someday, cut into Google’s local search advertising market share.
And if Microsoft keeps churning out goodies like this, Bing may just become a verb.