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As part of its overhaul of Windows Live, Microsoft programmers also made it easier for users to annotate their own maps and share the information they collect. One can place “pushpins” at points of interest or jot down a note in a scratch pad, then send the information to friends via an e-mail or an MSN Messenger instant message. One can also post it on a MSN Spaces blog. Using the bird’s eye view, a pushpin, and the scratchpad, a person arranging an assignation could turn “meet me in the park” into “meet me at this bench in the park.”[PA1]

Windows Live Local is “pretty compelling,” says Schuyler Erle, chief engineer at Locative Technologies and co-author of O’Reilly Media’s Mapping Hacks: Tips & Tools for Electronic Cartography. “Bird’s eye view is pretty cool. It was only a matter of time before someone could figure that out, and I’m pretty impressed by it.”

Yet Erle also says Windows Live Local, like other local search services is still lacking in areas. “They’ve come up with some nifty features, but what’s missing in local search is actual functional results,” he says. Erle notes that local searches are based on computer algorithms that still struggle to sort information in the way a human would. For instance, a search for “foam stuffing” could also bring up “turkey stuffing” – a bad choice if you need to make pillows.

Overall, Erle doesn’t believe that these new features give Windows Live Local a clear advantage over competitors such as Google Earth, Google Maps, or Yahoo Local. “The field is still wide open,” he says.

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