Microsoft intros update for Windows Live Local

Microsoft released the third version of their Windows Live Local (WLL) service. The site offers mapping, similar to Google's Maps service, with some interesting additions. In addition to the normal maps and aerial photography, users will be able to view traffic flows and lookup traffic accident reports. Landmarks can be shared with friends and there is an Outlook plug-in that integrates calendar appointments into the maps.

Windows Live Local service is accessed through the webpage, where users can create custom panes of information. WLL may be experiencing some trouble today as opening of certain panes caused Internet Explorer on several of our computers to crash multiple times. Interestingly enough, Windows Live Local seemed to work much smoother through the Firefox browser.

WLL has a few mapping features that Google Maps does not. A birds-eye view can be turned on that provides a three-quarters perspective, much like what you would see in Sim City games. In addition, the scroll wheel of the mouse lets you zoom in and out of the map. Finally, targeted ads are placed on the maps and denoted with location markers. More information about the location is displayed when users hover the mouse pointer over the marker.

Live traffic incidents are marked on the maps and freeways are color coded according to their average speed - afeature that is also offered through Yahoo's mapping service. The information is provided in partnership with

Users can also lookup their favorite spots and then save them. Locations can be shared via email or by Windows Live Messenger. Another feature is the free Windows Live Local add-in for Outlook users. The add-in hooks into the Calendar portion and can map out appointment locations. Map links can be sent to other people in the appointment.

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