Changes to Bird’s eye and 3D Maps

Update @ 3:30pm (11/2): Because there’s been confusion on this announcement, we want to make clear that this announcement was around the end of life of the 3D Map control. 3D Maps is not based on Silverlight and this announcement has nothing to do with our commitment to Silverlight. We continue to invest in Silverlight functionality, which delivers the richest possible experience for our users – specifically through our map apps that run in the browser on the PC and the Silverlight map control for Windows Phone 7 applications.

Update @ 8:45am (11/3): Added more detail on the difference between the previous Bird’s eye that previously existed in the AJAX map control and the enhanced Bird’s eye which will be made available for both our AJAX and Silverlight map experiences.

We reached out to customers to ask them what they wanted from the Bing maps imagery team and the answer was clear – more Bird’s eye, "everywhere".

Today we announce progress on that front with the forthcoming release of a new "Bird’s eye" – the same 45-degree perspective, viewable from all 4 compass directions imagery that you love, enhanced to include seamless, smooth zooming/panning, life-like building models in urban centers and 3D-like terrain features.

The enhanced Bird’s eye previewed in our Silverlight client last year, but what makes this message special is that, very soon, it will be made available without plug-ins and at scale in through our AJAX map control (Bing.com/maps) but will still be available in our Silverlight experience (Bing.com/maps/explore). The image below is what you’ll currently see in Bird’s eye view in our Silverlight experience and what we’re bringing to the Bing.com/maps experience. The second image is an example of the current Bird’s eye view in the AJAX map control (notice that this enhanced Bird’s eye allows you to view Bird’s eye at a higher altitude and has synthetic building models).

3deol_01 
                                              Enhanced Bird’s eye currently only in Silverlight


                                                     Regular Bird’s eye currently in AJAX

The upcoming release will be just the beginning. You can expect the experience to continue to evolve and get better as we strive to make Bird’s eye available everywhere.

With the new capabilities available in Bing.com/maps, the growth in Silverlight use, and the future with HTML5, we have also heard that customers want the best experience for the most people, without custom plugins for individual features. We have designed the new enhanced Bird’s eye with this in mind, so that the enhanced experience is accessible by users across technologies and platforms including desktop and mobile.

As a consequence, we are also announcing that we will be discontinuing investment in the Bing Maps 3D control Active-X plug-in. We don’t normally pre-announce new features or big changes; but, we want to make sure current 3D Maps users receive a heads-up rather than spring it unannounced. When the next update to Bing.com/maps is launched in the upcoming weeks, the option to view 3D Maps will be removed. Current users of 3D Maps can expect the following:

1. Permalinks and the desktop shortcut to 3D Maps will be redirected to Bing Maps with the nearest match to the experience they had in 3D. In most cases this will result only in a loss of the ability to navigate in full 3D.

2. After opening collections with 3D models, the 3D models will be represented as pushpins only. The models will not be accessible from collections.

3. Permalinks to tours will now open the collection manager with a message indicating discontinued support of the feature. Unfortunately there will no longer be an option to view the tour.

Sincerely,
Brian Hendricks
Bing Maps Product Manager

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42 comments
  1. IT-Blog

    Birds eye is pretty cool. I just found out that Bing has Bird's eye pictures of my home town :-)

  2. danderson

    Brian,

    How wonderful it would be if MS could bring the 3D map control back for an encore performance.  Say, for a week or two just so those of us who use 3D in videos could fly around and archive the shots that we want for the future.   Any chance?

  3. ltcol20

    why can't I get a birds eye view of a home I am looking into buying.

  4. eduncan911

    I must add my disappointment as well.  Bing Maps 3D (previously Virtual Earth) had far better Topology of land masses than Google Earth does.  On a perosnally level, I've used it several times to find lands for sale and their facing direction (think mountains and South-facing need).

    On a professional note, I was all hyped about WP7 development and had a GPS-related software near ready for release – until my hopes were crushed when 3D support was removed from Bing Maps.  Therefore, my app could no longer link users to an awesome track I was creating on 3D Maps.  

    I'll accept a "Wait until Silverlight 5" excuse, if there is one as that would eventually make it into WP7.  But, I haven't see that 'excuse' yet.

  5. danderson

    I'm not a developer but I was creating videos of 3D metro areas, having fun, and making a little money at the same time.  Poof! It's gone.   "We reached out to customers to ask them what they wanted from the Bing maps imagery team and the answer was clear – more Bird’s eye, “everywhere”.    You certainly didn't reach out to this customer.  Bird's eye people must never have experience the thrill of "flying" over and around a 3D City, recording the experience, and then using it in a video.  Bing Maps 3D control Active-X plug-in is to Bird's Eye what Google is to Microsoft.  How ironic!

  6. dad

    why was this not made public other than this blog?

  7. velloso_mateus

    "we have also heard that customers want the best experience for the most people, without custom plugins for individual features"

    What about reading the comments for this blog posted? I'd appreciate if you posted the real reasons for killing this. VERY disappointed!

  8. muellech

    Hi Brian,

    do you have any updates on the idea of making the ActiveX control open source? I can only repeat that it would be a realy pity if we lost this technology. Just two weeks ago, I could see Bing Maps for the first time on our brand new 45 Megapixel passive stereo tiled display – and now it seems we can use it only for one more year …

    Best regards,

    Christoph

  9. The Bing Team

    @USAG – Unfortunately not. The whole control is being depricated

  10. USAG

    Hi Brian,

    Any word on the questions I had asked about still being able to use the ActiveX (without the javascript API)?

    Regards,

    Tom

  11. The Bing Team

    Hi AJ. I can definitely give you some input, but I'm going to assume it's not what you wanted to hear. Now that the most recent release is rolled out, Bing Maps users no longer can access 3D Maps. Uninstalling Silverlight will not revert the site back to what you were used to.  As per the announcement, Bing Maps is discontinuing support for 3D Maps.

    I apologize on behalf on the Bing Maps team for how this affects you.

    Sincerely,

    Brian

  12. 4J4YN41R

    Brian,

    I have been using the classic Bing  (with 3D) in my daily work  .. and cannot do w/o the 3D control .. along with the additional information like the GPS coordinates & elevation etc. Is there any way, I can continue using the classic version … with those features enabled ? I don't care for Silverlight  .. and will uninstall it in a heartbeat if needed.

    REALLY appreciate some input from you … i have searched a lot , but have not found anything yet ..

    Thx

    AJ

  13. kilamanjero

    This has to be quite possibly one of the dumbest decisions I've seen from Microsoft after the multiple name changes of their services (from MSN to Windows Live to now Bing).  This will not only cause a degrade in quality of mapping for novel cartographers such as myself, but those whom use these professionally.  

    I professionally work in the field of cartography and urban design as a community planner, and actually found Virtual Earth/Bing Maps 3D as a great program compared to the subpar Google Maps 3D.  Google Maps 3D when compared to the now former Bing Maps 3D was crap at best.  Mainly due to the fact that Google has yet invest in 3D mapping of mid-sized cities and the outer portions of major metropolitan areas such as the ActiveX 3D software of Bing Maps.  It was useful and made Google's 3D mapping look inferior to be honest.  This move now has proven to me that Microsoft doesn't know what the hell they are doing these days and basically follows the trend rather than set it these days.  

    I just attempted to use the new "enhanced" Bird's Eye features of Bing Maps and it sucks.  No offense Brian, but your employer's decision to eliminate Bing Maps 3D software with this pseudo 3D imaging is feeble at best.  The line-of-sight features of elevation and skyline was superb.  I was under the impression that like Google, Microsoft was going to combine the Bing Maps 3D features with the recently created Silverlight streetscape imagery.  Instead, we have gotten a poorly executed "progression" which resulted in the elimination of 3D mapping and only the partial implementation of streetscape imagery with a directional 2D satellite images as a substitute.  

    I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Google Maps winds up overtaking Microsoft/Bing in the online mapping services for consumers.  You guys have a lost a dedicated user of the Bing Maps with this poor decision of eliminating 3D mapping.  Microsoft Silverlight's next upgrade should have an adequate 3D mapping feature exactly like Bing Maps 3D or even surpasses it in quality.  Otherwise, I'm through with dealing with Microsoft and Bing for anything.    

    I've never seen a corporation that had innovation sink into mediocrity as quickly as Microsoft.

  14. GeoffreyHawk

    This is a sad state of affairs.  I was once a 'Microsoft Evangelist', worked for a Solution Provider, and formed a regional Exchange Server User Group.  I really believed in Microsoft's vision.  Now I'm heart-broken.  No longer a technologist, I'm merely a user.  This discussion about API and various technologies does nothing to alleviate my concerns that Microsoft is no longer user-friendly.    My faith in Microsoft products has been seriously damaged by the recent demise of the Digital Image Prof suite, Microsoft Money, problems with IE that have forced me to switch to Mozilla, and now this.  I even had to buy a Google Droid phone at Verizon this year, because Verizon does not carry the Windows phone anymore; this is the first time in nearly 15 years that I've been without a Windows PDA.  What has happened?

  15. The Bing Team

    Hi. Apologies for delayed responses. I'm going to answer what I can and reach out to the team for additional information.

    @jamboharris – You're correct in how you've understood the change. Bing Maps' 3D Maps on our consumer site will be removed soon but Bing Maps customers will continue to have access until Dec 2011. As of there, there is no defined roadmap for 3D maps. I'm going to share a lot of these comments and concerns with the broader team but as of now the options are limited.

    @ygutfreund – Thanks for the support. Bird's eye is a unique value to our users and we will continue to support, and promote, it . We will also continue to support Silverlight. As for injecting Silverlight objects into Bird's eye, I don't have any info for you there.

    @sharpgis and Others – The most I can do is toss around the idea of opensourcing the 3d control, but there are no plans as of now to do that.

    @USAG – I totally understand the frustration and concern. Just to make sure I don't speak incorrectly, please let me confirm how access to the 3d control for developers will work.

    @Girlygirl – You're definitely right that Bing needs to have a strong international offering in order to gain international presence. I can't speak on behalf of Bing, but I will say that before Bing can invest a significant portion of resources internationally it needs to have a good foothold in the US where the concentration of traffic is.

  16. muellech

    Let me just add that I think Microsoft's decision is particularly unfortunate as Google added a 3D browser plugin and a Bing-like, interactive streetside view based on Flash in the recent past. For some time, Bing had a real advantage in this field – but it did not make anything out of it. I really do not understand why Microsoft puts a lot of effort in developing cool new technologies and then leaves the field to their competitor.

  17. muellech

    I am really disappointed about the discontinuation of the 3D control. We have developed an application based on it that displays Bing Maps on a 5m+ tiled display in stereo, which provides a really awesome experience when flying through the skyscrapers in New York or over the Alps. Having originally it implemented based on some wild Google Earth hack, we moved to Bing, because it provides the unique possibility of programmatic access. For us, any image-based approach like bird's eye view is no solution, because we require real 3D data for implementing stereo.

    Therefore, I am really interested in the questions posed by jamboharris. Most importantly, will the current 3D plugin be able to draw data from Bing or will this service be shut down completely?

  18. chinafacttours

    Very informative blog. I’ve found this blog via Yahoo and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your posts.

  19. Nathanael

    @Wild Typhoon, They're saving up several months worth of imagery update announcments for the upcoming announcement of the Fall 2010 Bing Maps update when they'll announce whatever new features they're introducing beyond the Enhanced Birds' Eye View for Bing Maps AJAX.

    I suppose that it makes a more impressive announcement if you've saved up half a year's updates and announce them all at once rather than only announcing the amount of imagery that was added in November or December when you make your press release about your new features that all the news sites will write up articles about.

    Don't worry. You'll see a bunch of updates hit before the end of the year quite possibly through the first few months of 2011 as well.

  20. Wild Typhoon 87

    When will the world tour site be updated to show new imagry added used to be monthly?"

  21. GirlyGirl

    I, too, am concerned about the discontinuation of 3D control.  I think this is just another capitulation to Bing's competitors, e.g. Google.  If Bing wants to improve its acceptance and use in the community at large, it needs to do more than just meet its competitors on equal terms, but to do better than them.   But Bing seems to be going in the opposite direction, taking away functionality; all this just makes its competitor's products all the more compelling, and makes it more likely that people will go to those products and leave Bing behind.  And Bing is _already_ wayyyy behind.

    Secondly, Bing must become less U.S. centric.  Most of Bing's features seem to come to the U.S. first, then slowly, if at all, to other Bing sites and countries.  Contrast this to Google, which also starts with its U.S. sites first, but then rolls out successful features the world over. No wonder the world loves Google and continues to use Google multiple times over than Bing.  Google has offices in all the major cities of the world; does Bing/Microsoft have this?

  22. USAG

    Hi Ricky,

    It is in the AJAX SDK (I know because that's how I learned about it) as officially supported in the API and the control itself is version 4.0.  I didn't see at any point where it said it was beta or not officially supported.

    I don't mean to contradict you so please don't take it that way, I just really don't believe it was presented that way (as beta and unsupported).

    I wasn't neccesarily suprised that they would discontinue the 3D control.  But I am shocked that it was discontinued without a replacement to move to (silverlight 3D etc…)

  23. Ricky Brundritt

    It's unfortunate that this will be happening but we should of seen this coming since the 3D control never made it out of beta and has never been officially supported. My company also has several apps that use the 3D control, mainly surface apps. The only real issue will be the loss of elevation and model data. The apps should still function without this but the models were part of the fun. I guess it's time to start looking at looking into see what other Bing mapping controls we can get to work on the surface.

  24. JoshBlake

    Hi everyone,

    I'm Josh Blake, the guy behind InfoStrat.VE. I really appreciate the support for the project in these comments. I've posted a general update on my blog about how this announcement affects InfoStrat.VE and mapping on Surface in general.

    nui.joshland.org/…/infostratve-and-bing-maps-3d-end-of.html

    Thanks,

    Josh

  25. USAG

    Brian,

    Please clarify some things for your developers.  Will MSFT still allow access to the imagery feeds through the ActiveX control?  If so then libraries like Infostrat.VE should still be able to function after December 2011 as they don't use the Javascript API, correct?.

    I can understand that you don't wish to support the Javascript APIs anymore as you're moving forward on the capabilities of the Silverlight and HTML 5.

    But you have many developers out there, many of whom are selling or have sold products based on your 3D functionality and you will be leaving them all out in the cold to face angry customers and perhaps forced refunds if this functionality is completely discontinued.

    I propose

    1) Let the ActiveX control continue to pull the imagery feeds for developers (with Bing Maps paid accounts)

    2) Don't spend any more resource making 3D models etc.

    3) Discontinue the javascript API for the 3D control and take it off of the Bing Maps general use site

    3) Open source the 3D activeX control (people pay subscriptions for the imagery feeds, not the control itself).

    We're not asking for much, please consider your loyal developer community and the repercussions your decisions have on them.  We support and use Microsoft tools precisely because we assume things like this cannot happen.  If we stop trusting the continued support of libraries you introduce it will become exponentially more difficult for Microsoft to get developers behind new technologies.

    I understand it's a burden to support everything and MSFT generally does a very good job but recently I have become distressed with this decision and Silverlight (new release of version 5 planned, relegating the Window Phone effectively).  I can tell you that these experiences are making it very difficult for us to invest heavily in your cloud computing architecture until we see years of continued support.  Not long ago we would not have had this concern.

    Sorry for the long message.

    Concerned,

    Tom

  26. jamboharris

    Hi Brian,

    Any chance that the Bing maps team could provide some idea of future direction for 3D mapping  as Maurizio suggests?  Any info would be great.

    I second the idea to make the ActiveX code open-source so that we can continue to develop with it – since there is no replacement to migrate to, this would be really helpful.

  27. Maurizio

    I think this could be a good news, I've never liked the ActiveX solution for 3D.

    But what is missing in this post is the future direction about 3D feature.  I don't believe Microsoft dismiss 3D completely (it would be really stupid), so what technology will replace the ActiveX? Ajax, HTML5, Silverlight…. or Google Maps?

  28. Breeto

    I can't say I'm surprised by the discontinuation announcement of the VE3D control, but I'm extremely disappointed nonetheless.  I, like a previous commenter has already mentioned, am using the Infostrat.VE library and the VE3D control for MS-Surface and Windows 7 touch-enabled applications.  I realize the majority of mainstream development these days is on the web, but unfortunately that means those of us still doing development on other MS platforms are left out in the cold for a decent mapping solution.

  29. John Stewien

    I second the idea for open sourcing the 3D Viewer. We've got a heap of custom meshes, control interfaces, and data sources that we use with the 3D Viewer which is fast, works on lower end machines, and contains a lot of utility.

  30. sharpgis

    Here's an idea: Open source the 3D viewer! Just throw it up on Codeplex under MS-PL and let us take it from there.

  31. ygutfreund

    Brian, The technical choice on how to achieve close-range 3D like (bird's eye detail) imagery is up to Microsoft. I don't have a handle on what is technically better for MS to decide.

    But as a Product Manager, I want to remind you that you have a clear discriminating unique value proposition (UVP) here. Google only has street-view and poor quality non-oblique imagery. Please continue to support this in Silverlight and continue to exploit this UVP.

    For example, I want to be able to inject Silverlight controls (lines, widgets, and other elements) into a Birds Eye level detail and have them as interactive elements no matter which angle I view the scene. I also want them to interact with the 3D terrain (query line of sight, do visibility calculations, navigate based on 3D topography not just 2D). All of this information is there somewhere in the Bing Silverlight control or in map layers. If you expose this to developers we will make it clear why GOOGLE maps sucks. They truly can only display static overlays. Silverlight gives us interaction with the scene.

    Please continue to expand the reach of the SL control, this sort of deep interaction with the map is just not possible in AJAX and JS.

  32. ygutfreund

    Brian, The technical choice on how to achieve close-range 3D like (bird's eye detail) imagery is up to Microsoft. I don't have a handle on what is technically better for MS to decide.

    But as a Product Manager, I want to remind you that you have a clear discriminating unique value proposition (UVP) here. Google only has street-view and poor quality non-oblique imagery. Please continue to support this in Silverlight and continue to exploit this UVP.

    For example, I want to be able to inject Silverlight controls (lines, widgets, and other elements) into a Birds Eye level detail and have them as interactive elements no matter which angle I view the scene. I also want them to interact with the 3D terrain (query line of sight, do visibility calculations, navigate based on 3D topography not just 2D). All of this information is there somewhere in the Bing Silverlight control or in map layers. If you expose this to developers we will make it clear why GOOGLE maps sucks. They truly can only display static overlays. Silverlight gives us interaction with the scene.

    Please continue to expand the reach of the SL control, this sort of deep interaction with the map is just not possible in AJAX and JS.

  33. jamboharris

    In addition, are we right in understanding that there will be no more true 3D capability in Bing maps at all; just the birdseye view?  Are there plans to implement 3D fly-throughs in silverlight at some point, or 3D structures as was possible with 3DVIA.

    Any information on your future road-map or planning would help us in choosing the most appropriate technology.

    Thanks,

    James

  34. jamboharris

    Hi Brian,

    We've been using the Bing Maps ActiveX plug-in along with the InfoStrat map control (bingmapswpf.codeplex.com) to build some touch based map apps for the Surface and also for Windows 7, and we've been impressed with the features available.

    Just to clarify our understanding, are we right in thinking that

    - the plug-in will no longer support viewing in 3D?

    - it will be discontinued in Dec 2011?

    We're thinking that our options are:

    - Port all of our code over to Sliverlight and host the sliverlight control in a WPF window (which we've heard is currently kinda possible through some C++, or we've also heard rumours this functionality might be coming soon to .NET)

    - Switch over to using another mapping tool such as Google maps

    Any thoughts or confirmation/correction would be helpful.

    Thanks for your help,

    James

  35. suriyasoft

    Need further zoom details about small towns.

  36. Nathanael

    1. This is 100% unacceptable. Microsoft  is now completely without any direct analogue to Google Earth. While Google had both Google Earth as a separate client and then added the proprietary GE plugin as an option in Google Maps for all browsers on all three desktop platforms (not to mention having standalone Google Earth apps for multiple mobile platforms for real 3D geo-browsing) Microsoft, after having Virtual Earth be in browser and for one desktop platform only since 2005 now cuts their own legs out from under themselves by throwing away even that one platform that had a true 3D control and goes 2D only.

    2. Support for the Enhanced Bird's Eye stitch should have been supported in Bing Maps AJAX last year anyway. Live Labs had already iterated multiple versions of Seadragon AJAX to make loading the tiles smooth.

    3. Last fall's update should have launched with support for Streetside, Enhanced Bird's Eye, and Photosynths inside the Direct3D control.

    4. You can talk to me all day long about how the Silverlight client uses 3D data for the building facades in Streetview, but because Silverlight has no real GPU support the low framerate makes the 3D very nearly imperceptible, even on some dual core CPUs. If Silverlight 5 has no real 3D support then all hope is lost for Bing Maps.

    5. You should not have deprecated the Direct 3D control until Silverlight's 3D capabilities had quality parity with the Direct3D control or Bing Maps AJAX was using WebGL to offer 3D parity with the former Direct3D control (ideally both true at the same time).

  37. The Bing Team

    Thanks Vic. I was alerted to the WinRumors post. A "thanks" goes out to to those who posted a response on that article correcting some inaccuracies with the explicit and implicit implications of this announcement.

  38. Vic Klien

    Specifically on Twitter, see maryjofoley's recent posts.

  39. The Bing Team

    Hi SWT.

    Thanks for posting. I need to clarify that this blog post is specific to the “3D” feature on our consumer http://www.bing.com/maps site. The developer API is being handled differently as we understand that our developers need additional time to transition to our new APIs and technology.  Last night we sent an email to all registered Bing Maps developers informing them of the changes to the 3D control and of our commitment to support the API until December 2011. I hope this commitment is along the lines of what you had in mind. We will be updating MSDN with this information soon.

  40. T_Pepper

    What does this mean for the future of the Bing Maps Silverlight control beta Streetside and Bird's Eye modes?

  41. swt

    While we are glad to see rapid innovation in the Bing Maps area, the near-term discontinuation of the 3D (VE) plug-in is VERY disturbing.  Instead of this "heads-up" blog entry, Microsoft should formally deprecate the 3D API (i.e., mark as deprecated on the MSDN documentation … msdn.microsoft.com/…/bb429547.aspx) and give developers 6-12 months to reimplement using the new APIs (which better support 3D and not require HTML5!).

    Microsoft has become somewhat amateurish in the lifecycle management of published APIs over the last few years.  The recent Muglia/Silverlight fiasco also indicates that you are becoming somewhat amateurish in your handling of entire development frameworks as well.  Please strive to be more "developers, developers, developers" focused … it's the main "momentum" you have going for you right now.

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