Go back a year and ask yourself if you could have predicted that online maps would be a big deal today. I doubt many people would have thought so. Back then, the online mapping world was pretty much Mapquest and Yahoo Maps and they were more or less interchangeable. Neither one had changed in years. They were useful, but it seemed like a pretty mature space. However, that's been changing quite rapidly over the last few months. Following the purchase of Keyhole, Google clearly rethought how online mapping worked and came up with a better solution (or, honestly, two better solutions if you look at Google Maps and Google Earth as separate products). Microsoft then followed with Virtual Earth, and suddenly the old Yahoo Maps and Mapquest started looking quite dated. Now, add Amazon/A9 to the mix, as they've launched their own mapping service, which focuses on the Amazon/A9 mission of driving more people to shop. It doesn't have the satellite views, or even the simplicity of Google Maps. Instead, it integrates the maps with all those storefront pictures they surprised the world with earlier this year. Of course, with Google sending out trucks to do a similar project (combined with mapping images of local stores to 3D models of cities), it seems like this space is only going to get that much more competitive. So, how long will it be until a walk down the virtual street looks pretty much like a walk down the real street?
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