Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bing Maps: Helping you find the middle of nowhere whether you want it or not

Bing was supposed to be the new black. Bing + Yahoo! search deal + Farecast integration + new mapping was supposed to = a revolution in search engines for Microsoft (excuse me.. not a search engine.. a discovery engine). For that all to work, the mapping has to work. Especially in travel. When people search for information on locations they need to be given very accurate mapping information on where the location is..well...located.

I have been house hunting recently and "accidentally" used an integrated Bing Maps feature on Internet Explorer. It failed an entertaining way.

Here are the screen shots that tell the story. Shot 1 - the house in 138 Underwood St Padding (suburb of Sydney just next to downtown business region) that I was looking at and me highlighting the address and selecting map with Live Search/Bing. Shot 2 - the result. No only is the mapping result nowhere near Paddington, it is some 4,000 kilometres away on an Aboriginal reserve in the North West corner of Australia. In other words...somewhere near the middle of nowhere (with all due respect to the people who live there).

Shot 1 - me doing the search

Shot 2 - the result. We now know where the middle of nowhere actually is.
Described by Bing as "138, Aboriginal Land, Western Australia". Other than the number 138 there is nothing in common with the address I was searching for

Let me put shot 2 into perspective with Shot 3 showing how far away this is from the actual location of Underwood St Paddington

Shot 3 - how far apart the locations are

Think this is a one off? I tried the same for a property in another part of Underwood st Paddington (this time number 14 not number 138) Shot 4 is the result. At least this time in Sydney but still some 30-40kms away and under than the number 14 - nothing in common with what I searched.

Shot 4 - closer but still not close enough
Showing 14 Underwood st Paddington as 14 Bilgola St Newport

If Bing wants any chance at fighting Google, Kayak or the OTAs in travel search they will have to do dramatically better than this in the mapping area.


Kristi said...

Paddo is pricey. "138, Aboriginal Land, Western Australia" is probably cheaper and you will get a much larger place...

Tim Hughes said...

@Kristi - true true true

Carl said...

That is a very wide berth for a mapping application!

I thought I'd try and replicate the error directly on Bing to see if there might be a contributing factor to do with the originating data (domain/browser plugin)

A search for the Underwood st Address replicated perfectly but being from the Northern Beaches I thought I'd do the search for the Bilgola address (directly in au) and got a result of
14 Billy Lawn Avenue, Havant PO9 5
In the UK. (ScreenShot emailed)
I repeated and got
14 Bilsland Drive, Glasgow G20 7

They clearly need to do a lot better.

Tim Hughes said...

@Carl - brilliant!

Carl said...

I thought if I could demonstrate a good address for you on the Northern Beaches I'd have someone to split the $60 cab ride after a George Clinton gig with.

Tim Hughes said...

@carl - true...but normally I would just hitch a ride on the mothership and let the vibes flow thru....

Carl said...

@tim - funkadelic!