The word wide web goes local

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The world wide web's biggest players are moving to your neighbourhood and are promising that you never need get lost again.

Microsoft, the world's largest software company, is to reveal an online "Virtual Earth" in the United States this summer. The site will allow users to search their areas for a host of amenities – from shopping malls and cinemas to small businesses that do not have their own websites.

In contrast with conventional search engines, the results will appear in the form of photographs and maps, which will pinpoint their location. Microsoft says its images, which are apparently being collected by a fleet of chartered planes, are taken at a 45-degree angle, giving users more information than the birds-eye views already used by other sites.

Similar services are expected to reach Britain before long and several other players have entered the market, which is expected to prove massively lucrative as the web replaces paper directories as a prime source of local information.

Yahoo! Maps already permits American users to find a cash machine, say, next to the restaurant they have booked for dinner. Amazon, the online retailer, has taken a different tack with its A9 service, which will match business listings with photographs of shop fronts, allowing prospective shoppers to take a virtual walk down the high street.

Google Earth, developed by the No1 search engine and expected to be released soon, is being eagerly anticipated and is seen as the main competition to Microsoft. Many of the new services will seek to make money by offering a platform for local businesses to advertise and are likely to put pressure on local radio stations and newspapers.

Mobile phone operators are working on their own versions, aiming to provide customers with a combined atlas and Yellow Pages, in their pocket.

For several years sites such as have provided online directions in the UK, while classified ad services such as have expanded at the expense of the traditional media.

The virtual "try before you buy" idea is not new. The restaurant site allows you to look around a dining room on the web before you commit to a booking. The recently launched a downloadable iPod edition of their restaurant listings.

But the new generation of online maps is opening up new paths., for example, is an interactive visual database of crimes committed in Chicago, which automatically matches Google Maps with official crime statistics. The service allows people to pinpoint a reported crime's location on a satellite map.



Yeah all noble project is usually overtaken by exploitation and over commercialisation. If not, I am yet to see one in my nation Nigeria
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