Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Review of Online Mapping Sites: Yahoo! Maps Beta

A plurality of online map seekers use Yahoo! Maps and with the release of the new beta Yahoo! (so-far) deserves to be near the top.

User Friendliness:
Yahoo! Maps is very user friendly. Soft, Windows XP-like blue hues assure the user that everything will be familiar to them even if it is there first time using the program. A single click will refocus a map and double-clicking will zoom in. A plus from Google Earth is the supporting of the mouse wheel. Using the wheel will zoom in or out.

Zoom is a little bit disorienting. The image will close-in becoming fuzzy then be replaced by a focused, zoomed image.

Lassoing to select an area is not supported however. The mini map to the side gives one a greater orientation on where they are.

Driving Directions
In a very odd twist of fate both Yahoo and Google gave the exact same directions. I tried several more examples but all of them came out the same. The routes given are not necessarily the fastest or most direct so I do wonder what logic is used.

The funny thing is that the 382-mile long test is 7 hours long according to Yahoo Maps and 7 hours 40 minutes to Google Maps. The strange thing is it takes me about 6.5 hours to complete the journey. I guess both are factoring one goes well below the speed limit on interstates and highways.

Map Quality and Quantity:

The standard road map, satellite, and hybrid modes are there. A major problem is when one is using driving directions and switches views. The new view will zoom all the way out. This is troublesome when one is switching between roads and aerial views in a city.

Right now only the United States and Canada have road maps available while satellite views are available almost globally. So no planning the Paris to Berlin summer vacation just yet on Yahoo. Also, maybe because they are still in beta, Canada's road map is not yet integrated into the hybrid view.

The satellite view is a series of layered mosaics making some seemingly gorgeous views. This really is nice compared to Google's sown together look.

In many rural parts of the US and Canada Yahoo has much more detailed imagery than Google.

There is one gapping problem. In Google Maps there is the option to "link to the map" by obtaining the html location of the image one is seeing. This is glaringly missing from Yahoo's.

Extras are where Yahoo Maps stand out. Maps can be intergraded into My Yahoo. Live Traffic provides traffic and construction updates in select areas. Some mash-up sites like Platial also are starting to use Yahoo Maps as a voluntarily alternative to Google Maps.

A side bar option allows one to see restaurants and other types on businesses on the map. However, in many places many businesses like hotels are missing.

A click of a button allows one to reverse directions or make them round trip.

Summing Up:
Yahoo Maps is like Google Maps plus some extra features. I would recommend it as a good default mapping site for Americans. Those internationally should (and have to) stick to Google Maps.

Next up: Catholicgauze takes a break from reviews until Friday. Then he will take on the old standby Mapquest.

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