I use maps sites on a daily basis to get to know cities better, whether it is for my own knowledge and edification or whether it is to get to know a project site in better detail. Google Earth has always been helpful in particularly because of the business location mapping. It allows me to see the area dynamics of a city. What businesses are where, are they successful, etc...
There is also the feature where people can upload their own images and site them on the maps in a sort of open source wiki-mapping. The pictures themselves aren't often very helpful but the location, clustering, and organization of the dots is often indicative of sacred places, or those areas important to the community at-large.
(Shown - Philly. Interesting that Love Park has the second most clustering of photos behind Independence Square.)
Then, there was the ability to model real world building in sketchup and upload them into google earth's open sourceware. The possibilities were obviously endless, but it seemed dubious at best whether these promises would come to fruition.
I'll admit. For a time, I was won over by Microsoft's new maps site b/c of their bird's eye view photos and relatively up to date aerial photos. Until I just today updated my google earth to version whatever dot whatever and started looking around. My actual site in Nashville had very little improvement over the previous version, but holy moly look at Dallas.
They have virtually every building in DTD (this will be my shorthand for Downtown Dallas from now on), uptown, and Turtle Creek on there in sketchup models. I'm literally looking in my own window right now. What trouble is my puppy up to?
(oh hai. me resting on teh bed.)
But then... I saw San Francisco...WOW. They literally have every building in there and look at that fine grained urbanism. The herky jerky nature of Dallas's speculative office building booms really shows in these two photos where San Fran really has a smooth transect, reaching a crescendo in the heart of downtown. Draw a section through Dallas and the up and down nature of the wild west real estate market begins to show itself.
(Sorry Google, I will never doubt you nor cheat on you again with Microsoft Maps...until they up the ante...or you give me stock options...)