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Bing Maps takes on Google Street View as Flickr pictures illustrate maps

Bing and Google are adding Flickr photos to their maps services, taking you into the map like never before

Microsoft is taking on Google Street View with the addition of photos to Bing Maps. Both Bing Maps and Google Maps now pull users' photos from Flickr to show locations as they really are.

Google Maps has also added Flickr pictures recently, alongside Street View. Bing, however, benefits from the whooshy-swooshy effect seen in Microsoft's Photosynth software. This lets you zoom into and between photos.

Microsoft demonstrated the new features earlier this week at technology conference TED 2010. Bing's photo features eschew roaming camera cars and tricycles, instead taking the user-generated route. Streetside Photos searches photo-sharing site Flickr for pictures that are geotagged to a location, and shows them within the map. Flickr has over 95 million geotagged pictures, but Bing will only pull in pictures marked with a Creative Commons licence, which allows for such re-use.

The advantage of user-generated content is that maps have no limits on where they can go, including indoors -- and into space. Microsoft's Indoor Panorama feature wanders off the beaten track and inside buildings and enclosures. The new features cover Vancouver, Seattle, and San Francisco at launch. More locations will follow, including the stars: World Wide Telescope will let you 'look up' to search the heavens.

User-generated photos can also offer a wider range of photos, showing a location at different times of day and night, and potentially more up to date than pictures taken on a camera car's last trip round the block. Set course for the video below to see the new features in action.