Bing Maps, which was formerly known as Virtual Earth, is Microsoft's answer to Google Maps. The maps service is directly available on the Bing homepage and offers a 2D mode by default.
This mode can be used to zoom in and out of locations in the world or get directions from one place to another.
The main difference between the two maps services is the third party support. Hundreds, if not thousands of Google Maps mashups exist which is one of the prime reasons for the popularity of the service.
Bing Maps 3D is an add-on for Bing Maps which activates the 3D mode. This mode adds the possibility to zoom and rotate in 3D. Probably the most interesting aspect of the add-on is the 3D models of buildings and sights that have been added to the map. Among the cities are New York, Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Berlin.
Bing Maps 3D can be installed in two different ways. The first option is to visit the Bing Maps website and click on the 3D link in the upper left control panel. This will open a window with the possibility to download Bing Maps 3D.
The second possibility is to download the add-on directly from a Microsoft server. The web browser needs to be closed and restarted after installation. The installation displays (preselected) options to switch to MSN as the homepage and Bing as the default search engine. Users who do not want this should ensure that they have unchecked the options.
A fast video card and Internet connection are advised to enjoy Bing Maps 3D.
Update: A recent update on Bing has removed the first option to install Bing Maps 3D. You now need to use the Microsoft website to download and install the add-on on your computer.
Update 2: Birds Eye View is not available on Bing Maps right now. Microsoft updated the service to a new version and is in the process of adding the mode again to it. The main reason for that is that Microsoft is in the process of updating the imagery that is used for the 3D part of Bing Maps. The download of the software described below is no longer available.
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