File Under: Location

Bing Maps Gets a Developer SDK

Microsoft may be a few lengths back in the race to win the online mapping prize, but you can never count Redmond out. The company released an SDK for Bing Maps on Monday, allowing developers to create their own Map Apps for submission into Bing Map Apps gallery (Silverlight is required for that link).

When Microsoft first launched the Bing Map Apps gallery (say that three times fast) a few months ago, it featured interesting geodata mashups from partners like Foursquare, Twitter, Weather.com and TrafficLand.com. These maps provide one or more data layers over whatever map you’re currently looking at, so you can see things like restaurant reviews, geo-tagged tweets, weather camera images and temperature readings or traffic cams. My favorite is the Urban Graffiti tracker from virtualglobetrotting.com which pinpoints places where you can see some cool street art.

Now, anyone can make one of these apps. With the new SDK, developers can create their own geodata overlays using any data set they can get their hands on, then submit their creations to the Map Apps gallery. Microsoft will feature the best submissions and present them to everyone using the Bing search tool. The company says it will also allow advertising in the Map Apps and split the revenue with the creators. There’s a testing tool included in the launch.

The goal of Monday’s release appears to be two-fold: increase interest in Bing Maps, and speed adoption of Silverlight 4, the latest version of Microsoft’s rich media and streaming video platform, and it’s alternative to Adobe Flash.

Everything built with this SDK needs to be done in Silverlight 4. You’ll also need the Silverlight plug-in to view any of Bing’s mapping features — at least version 3 is required for the bing.com/maps website.

It’s a bit of a shame that Microsoft has so deeply baked Silverlight into the Bing maps experience while others — most notably, Google and OpenStreetMap — have managed to create rich, interactive maps using HTML, JavaScript and CSS. But one can’t blame Microsoft for trying to popularize Silverlight at a time when the web is starting to move away from Flash as the de facto standard for presenting rich content in the browser. Even though most of the momentum is going into HTML5, CSS 3 and other open standards, Silverlight stands a chance to win some ground.

Silverlight is currently installed on around 60-65 percent of internet-enabled PCs. Around half of Silverlight’s users are running version 3, with around seven percent running version 4, according to riastats.com.

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