The announcements are coming fast and furious these days. A9.com just launched A9.com Maps.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that I started looking at this with a sigh. Another map product, I thought? Could it really be that interesting?
But it is very much worth checking out. The folks at A9 did some amazing work integrating their local search photos into their maps.
When you bring up an address with A9 Maps, check the little box at the top that says "Mark streets with block view". A little blue line will be added to the map that shows the streets where A9 drove down the street wildly taking pictures out of both sides of the truck. Click somewhere on the blue line. The pictures will be shown in a nifty AJAX interface that allows you to virtually "drive" down the street, seeing the homes and storefronts on both sizes.
It's a neat experience and a nice interface. Certainly a lot of fun.
Whether it is practical or not, I'm not so sure. I could imagine someone who is buying a house might use it to view the surrounding neighborhood, but I was disappointed to find that A9 Maps had no coverage of the neighborhoods around the two examples I tried. I thought maybe it'd help me visualize how to get to a building in downtown Seattle that I need to get to tomorrow, but I found the images didn't give me enough of a view of the large downtown buildings to be helpful. Until the coverage improves, I fear this may be more of a toy than a tool.
Nevertheless, you have to hand it to A9. At a time when I thought Google Maps was far ahead, blazing the trail on innovation, A9 steps in and shows another path. Very clever work, folks. Congrats to the A9 team.
[spotted via O'Reilly Radar]