Bing’s Bringing Sexy Maps

Over the last few weeks a few of you lucky ducks got to experience a new map type we were flighting. Around 10% of users were seeing our new maps in all its aesthetic glory. Today, we’re releasing it to everyone. The new map type has two experiences that differ between the AJAX version of Bing Maps and the Silverlight experience. The AJAX maps are rendered completely as a new set of map tiles and displayed through the AJAX interface as we do our current road and aerial map types. The Silverlight experience is a little different…and, this is where it gets interesting.


The Silverlight experience has a combination of both raster tiles AND vector graphics rendered in the browser at run time. Uh, what? Well, yes, by default on the Silverlight site you can see the same tiles you see on the AJAX site only in Deep Zoom greatness. However, there’s a beta option to try the new base map with neighborhoods hovering over them as text, which we call dynamic labels. The dynamically labeled neighborhoods are clickable and will zoom you down to the respective region making it easier to further explore an area or neighborhood of a city. We’re just peeling away at the onion one data layer at a time. And, you’ll see these maps start to spread across Bing such as our Local Search.


The maps themselves have quite a bit to them. I actually have a whole synopsis on rods and cones in your eyeballs enjoying the shading, tones and colors. The UX team went optometry on us! Here are some good talking points about the new maps when you want to brag to your friends that you know all about the new Bing map type (great for parties):

  • Cool colors visually recede allowing warmer overlays to come forward – An elegant backdrop for information delivery and helps content ‘pop’ on the map
  • Road color provides greatest differentiation scientifically from red, yellow, green traffic overlays. 
  • De-saturation on zoom allows more continuous transition to photographic material (Aerial, Birdseye, Streetside) and allows user to focus on street level detail better.
  • Designed to work in black and white and to be differentiated by those with the most common forms of color blindness
  • Crisp/easy to read font, larger font corresponds to larger roads
  • Lower cognitive load – Less  data / clearer details
  • Improved international coverage: Data updates deliver improved road and street detail across Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East, Oceania and Asia.

Cool as a cucumber. The new Bing map type is like chewing a whole pack of Orbit mint gum while getting your entire body exfoliated with cucumber scrub in an ice chamber. Feels good, doesn’t it? We certainly hope you enjoy it.

Follow me @BingMaps, ^CP

Join the conversation

  1. Nathanael

    To everyone who wants to use the old map style:

    Just use Bing Maps 3D. Problem solved.

    If you switch to satellite imagery + labels on any version of the maps, that is another way of getting the old colour scheme back without using the old 3D control, although you may be one of those people who wants to only look at the labels without any photographic imagery behind them.

  2. solyxex

    I like these "sexy" maps. I don't agree with those that say the new color scheme is ugly

  3. sv16

    Please Please, revert the old color scheme rightaway

  4. RSNOrion

    I agree with those that say the new color scheme is ugly. It's also much less useful. The low contrast makes a lot of the roads practically invisible. I also think you should also consider that a lot of us actually like having a lot of labels on our maps. Getting rid of most of the labels (i.e., "lower cognitive load") eliminates most of the point of looking at a map, as far as I'm concerned.

    As an example, look at the first screenshot (the Las Vegas taxi calculator shot) in the recent "King of Bing Maps" post. Pull up the same location and zoom level with the new style. The old view, as evidenced by the screenshot, shows far more information (which makes it more useful, you know, as a MAP) and is also easier to read because of the high contrast. If you think the new style is an improvement you obviously are looking for much different things in a map than I am.

    At any rate, I've been using Bing Maps since the day I discovered it (way before it was called Bing Maps :) because it was by far the most readable and functional online map. I loved the old Bing Maps. I would spend time too much time just looking through it and exploring (but I love looking at maps in general). Well, I can't explore anymore because you've decided to hide all the labels, and it's not terribly functional because of the low contrast. I really hope you decide to let us have the old functionality again, at least as an option. If you don't… I don't see it being very useful to me. Bing Maps has gone from being by far the best to merely average — maybe even a little below.

  5. Odog4ever

    Since this is beta I hope the team listens to both set of users, those who think the colors are dull (the camp I'm in) and those who think the new color scheme is great.

    I think a better option would be to leave the old, vibrant color scheme and have the more dull, muted, yet accessible, color scheme be a view option for people who have trouble seeing the colors. It's great that you guys are striving to make things more accessible but it won't matter if a larger group of users ignores Bing Maps because the look "ugly".

  6. shlok

    Agree with johncz. The new color scheme does look very dull. I find myself having to concentrate on the screen harder.

  7. sv16

    Like the labels and the drill down experience.

    Colors are horrible, dont feel like using bing maps anymore (have been using since VE days).

  8. Chad Campbell

    Hi Chris,

    Are there any plans to expose the new Bing Maps look to third party developers?

    Thank you!

  9. umapathyxp

    I really like the open street maps integration. But why don't you add it as layer on top of Bing imagery as I can only see the open street map or bing maps but not both at the same time. While I can see photosynth on top of bing maps. I haven't used open street very much but it looks promising. From…/Making_GPX_Files I understood that the GPS in WGS84 datum. Here in Sri Lanka (a small country below India where I am from) we are using Kandawala datum for historical reasons and not very sure how well others use WGS84 unless we get a high resoution imagery for Sri Lanka. Till that time I guess people will stick with Kandawala datum I suppose as I do not see much activity related to Sri Lanka. Anyway I checked new interface with FireFox on Windows XP SP3. I would like to see wikipedia layers as well as plenty of articles do have geolocation information.

    Further I appreciate if you can add coordinate information in the layers so that we can get the coordinates if required projection information (like SLGrid – Sri Lankan grid) as well. Currently it is tedious to get such information any other sources other than Survey department 1:50,000 topo sheet. I will also appreciate if we can add atleast scanned maps on top/below topo maps of I will appreciate a lot if you could take some forward setups on this. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

  10. Chris Pendleton

    Lots of good questions. Wish I had better answers (or could reveal more of our plans).

    1. This is a beta, so we'll see what people think. Once people get to using it I think everyone will agree that it's much more visually useful (and aesthetic) than the 1990's maps that are out there today.

    2. Good point on symbology and respecting local cultures. I've forwarded this feedback to the team to ensure it is taken into consideration.

    3. Rendering vector data is a brutally intesnse operation. We're seeing some great performance gains by using Silverlight, but if you think about all the route geometry and labels that exist in certain areas it's quite daunting. I think we're a bit away from that, but we love the idea.

    4. The colors are a bit muted, but that's so the labels pop! There are some areas where you look at the base map features for reference points instead of the labels (like Central Park). We can turn up the volume on some of the colors, but we wanted to play it safe for the first roll out.

    5. Yep, we brought through all kinds of people to get feedback and tweaked the UI based on this feedback. They play golf through The Everglades? Weird.


  11. JohnCz

    Just curious, did the UX Team bring in consumers and have them use Bing Maps (both old & new themes) and those of your competitors?  I don't play golf but just search Weston Hills Country Club, Weston, FL…zoom in street level.

  12. JohnCz

    As I continue to think about this color/theme change.  I can see this accommodating Map App develpers and their use of overlays.  But not for general consumer doing a quick lookup on Bing Maps.  Couldn't you stick with the high contrast theme and revert to this more muted/dull theme when an overlay was applied?  You folks may want to rethink this.  Watch embedded Bing Map usage…I think you will be seeing a significant drop.

  13. JohnCz

    Hi Chris, the font scaling and dynamic text are significants improvements.  I hope Bing Map performance is improved as I am no longer able to scroll/pan around nearly as fast I had been able to do before.  But the biggest issue I have is the color scheme you have gone with.  I think you've gone too cool with with your colors.  After playing with it for awhile…it makes me feel like I'm in a greyscale world.  Folks with sight problems may indeed benefit from this change but I would like to have a more vibrant color scheme.  I recommend you provide configuration settings so users can select a default color scheme.

  14. Nathanael

    Hi, Chris,

    I know that dynamic labels is in beta, but is there any approximate plan for when vector labels will be available for all regions that raster labels are available for?

    I've also been curious about the UK and Japan still retaining their older customised map style. What's the full list of these customised territories and isn't there some way to respect the colours and|or icons that they use (if that is locally important) while making use of the improved typography seen for the majority of the world?

    Lastly (for the moment anyway =), how long do you think it will be before we also see vector data for the actual road map data? I'm sure that there is some scale at which using raster tiles becomes more efficient than vector data, but by that very statement, it is also true that on the other side of that line, vector data is more efficient, not to mention more fluid.

    I'm looking at Blaise's old Seadragon demos (specifically 2/5 here: ) and wishing that more of that will surface – hopefully before another half a decade goes by.

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