The Live Local team shipped a major update this week with a bunch of new unique features. Coverage in blogs and other online sites has been really positive, but they all seem to focus on the same couple of features. We wanted to spotlight some of the other goodies that are often overlooked, while also providing tips for the big ticket features that might not be obvious.
Until now, International support in Live Local has been thin, focusing on North America. Not any more! With this release we introduced maps all over the world, street address lookups in nearly 30 Countries and driving directions in places you’ve probably never heard of. You can just as easily get Directions form your Hotel to a club in Amsterdam as you can from the same hotel to one in Budapest. Also new in this release, we have begun rolling out super high-res aerial and birds eye imagery that you won’t find anywhere else online. The UK is the first area covered, but as promised we’ll just keep rolling out the imagery over the coming weeks. The Google Earth Blog has a good look at this feature and how it stacks up to competing offerings.
Live Messenger Integration
Probably one of the most useful features we’ve ever popped out. This lets you and a friend on your Messenger contact list navigate a single shared map! If you’ve ever tried to help a friend pick a hotel in a new city via phone or try to agree on a place to meet to throw a Frisbee, this is your feature. You initiate the Messenger conversation from within Live Local – Use the ‘Share -> Share in Messenger’ menu (just above the map) to display your Messenger Contact list. Choose a contact and they will be alerted to accept your invite. When they do, a conversation window will open with your map loaded from Live Local. When you drag the map, it updates on their display as well. If your friend does a search for Thai Restaurants, you both see the results. If you right click on the map to add a custom pushpin, it is displayed for both of you. Give it a try! Works in MSN Messenger 6.0 or higher including Live Messenger.
Microsoft Outlook Integration
Coinciding with the launch this week, a free Windows Live Local plugin for Microsoft Outlook hit the streets that integrates maps and driving directions into your calendar items and appointments. The must have feature here is the automatic buffering of a meeting’s reminder based on estimated travel time!
Lots of coverage has focused on Live Local being the first major mapping site to offer traffic flow data drawn right on the streets as an overlay. Slick indeed, but when you add a layer of real-time Traffic Cameras for a region, you suddenly have an indispensable tool that you’ll bookmark and use everyday. Check this out in Houston for example. The traffic Camera overlay is via a bit of user generated content that takes advantage of another new feature in this release known as Collections. Check to see if a traffic cam Collection already exists for your city and if not why not be the first to create it. Your entire city will thank you!
Collections and Live Favorites
Collections are just what they sound like – a grouping of stuff on your Scratchpad that you want to save together. From a list of restaurant recommendations that your friends have told you about, to a Collection of your best hikes in Italy. Collections are easy to create and share, and with the integration we’ve added for Live Favorites, it’s also easy to keep track of Collections sent to you by friends that you want to recall later. Lets say they send you this Collection of Beach videos from TurnHere.com. In the viewer is an ‘Add to Favorites’ link that will add a permalink for the Collection to your live Favorites. You can then view all of your faves from within Live Local by going to the ‘Collections -> Favorites’ menu.
As you can see, we packed a lot into this release. Give it a try and let us know what you think. Your feedback will shape the next release, just as it has these past three. And for the coders reading this, all of the details of the latest map control and API can be found on Alex Daley’s blog so you can get started building all of this goodness into your own applications..
—Chandu Thota, Steve Lombardi and the entire Virtual Earth Team