It's not often that Microsoft does something with its Bing search engine that we can conclusively say is better than Google's effort.
But Bing's new "Streetside" mode definitely is one case -- especially for travellers in unfamiliar cities, trying to locate buildings by sight.
Check out this video from Microsoft Research demonstrating how a prototype of the system (then called "Streetslide") works.
That's a pre-release demo video -- the actual Streetside system now available on Bing is a bit different.
In Google Streetview, although it's amazing technology, you can only move along the street in segments, looking up, down, left and right from a fixed location.
In Microsoft Bing Streetside, you can zoom out from the 'standing' position on the street to view a whole side of a street, panning along it smoothly.
Microsoft overlays company names underneath buildings to help you identify them, and above the Streetside, shows a 2D map of the area.
In terms of where you can view Streetside imagery, it's limited to cities in the USA at the moment. Microsoft says it has collected imagery in 56 US metro areas, and also some areas of Canada. Other international areas will be added "soon", according to Microsoft.
The secret sauce behind the system is Microsoft's clever "Photosynth" technology which blends images together. In the past it has been an interesting proof of concept for putting tourist photos of the same place into a 3D scene, but it's great to see Microsoft putting the technology into a practical setting.
Microsoft says it aims to integrate people's random photos of streets into Bing's Streetside photoscapes -- another huge leap forward in the 'crowd-sourcing' of maps.
You can try it out yourself at the Bing Maps Beta website. You'll have to click the "Australia" link at the top of the screen and change to the United States - English site, though. It seems Bing Australia doesn't yet have the Streetside feature. Here's a direct link to a Streetside view in New York.