Scoble toys with MSN Virtual Earth

Just saw Scoble defending virtual earth again.

Scoble provides this link to the Virtual Earth view of Google’s HQ.

The most interesting part of this URL is this: “ss=*|Canada|Ottawa”. My experience with VirtualEarth this morning showed me that the “ss” parameter is inserted into the permalink when you type a search string into the “What” box of the search form.

So.. sometime before looking for Google, Scoble had been looking for “*|Canada|Ottawa”. I’m not quite sure how to parse that – my first impression is that “Canada|Ottawa” would be a logical expression meaning “Canada OR Ottawa”, while the * usually means “everything” – for instance, the sql snippet “Select *” means “select all fields”.

The ordering of these fields suggests a path though – * could represent “All maps”, then Canada would direct the search to the subset called Canada, then Ottawa would go for the subset of Canada called Ottawa.

Hrm, interesting.

Most interesting of all: Type “*|Canada|Ottawa” into the “What” box yourself and you’ll see what Scoble saw – Ottawa, Illinois. Scoble didn’t mention this of course..

While I’m here, I’ll point out that there are a few things I do like about this interface. The “Permalink” pop-up windowlet thing is a very annoying gratuitious use of dhtml/javascript; but some of the other things on this interface – the search results box on the left and the scratchpad – are very, very nice. It’s very nice being able to customise the interface and remove the bits you don’t need to see so quickly and easily, without a page refresh. Having the help come up in a popup, without disturbing the page you’re looking at – that’s great too.

Still – no knowledge of any of the world except one country. Distances expressed in units used by only one country in the world (that I’m aware of). It’s still closer to Virtual United States than Virtual Earth.

What’s not so nice is the “Locate Me” function. I clicked on this link from within Firefox, and was given a choice of installing an activex control, just using my IP, or cancelling.

The ActiveX control seems far too much for such a simple function. Even if it works, it won’t work on either of my machines at home (Debian and OSX), and only one of two desktops at work (one is Fedora Core 4, the other runs windows). That’s one out of 4 machines that I use regularly. The whole idea of a Locate Me function is rather bizarre – I know where I am, thanks! – but even more so when the only machine I can run it on is tethered and never moves..

So, instead I tried the “Use IP only” link. Should have known better – it crashed Firefox.

Well done, Microsoft, well done.

“Use IP only” did work second time round though – one out of two ain’t bad.

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