New Capabilities Help Microsoft's Bing Maps Gain Respectability

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Microsoft has been rolling out a number of new features for Bing Maps this week, most notably the ability to help users calculate cab fares between two addresses.

Some of the new features, including the taxi fare calculator, were submitted by users as part of Microsoft’s “King of Bing Maps” competition. The winner of that competition will be announced Aug. 20 and will win a $1,000 travel gift card.

The contest appears to be helping Bing gain some ground in respectability against Google. Google does not offer a taxi fare calculator, for example.

Other entrants in the contest can be seen at the Bing community blog. Another entrant overlays a map that displays sales taxes around the country, for example, while another simply generates a random set of map coordinates and takes the user there on Bing Maps – the modern-day equivalent of throwing a dart at a map on the wall.

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Outside of the contest, Microsoft this week said that Bing Maps is now tied into the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community, the online map with free geographic data that’s edited by volunteers Wikipedia-style. OSM community members contribute data to the OSM central database – everything from street names to GPS readings – to create maps.

In a posted blog, Chris Pendleton, Microsoft’s “Bing Maps evangelist,” said Microsoft Bing has linked the OSM database to its Windows Azure Content Delivery Network. Through a new application in the Bing Map App gallery, Bing users can load OSM maps as a new map style option.

While Google remains far and away the online search engine leader, it’s share of the overall search market has been slipping in recent months, according to recent numbers compiled by digital marketing intelligence firm comScore. Competitors, meanwhile, have gained some ground, including Bing, which improved its market share to 12.7 percent in June.