Those of you who know me know that I am usually a pretty reserved person with my opinion – okay, I can be a little outspoken at times; some even go so far as to call some of the topics I take issue with "rants.” The goal of my "rants," however, is not to hear myself speak; it is to engage others who hopefully have more information than me to speak up and give me an answer that is better than the view I have created watching on the sidelines. In saying that, today’s rant is on a topic that every person in organized real estate should be concerned with along with every customer using a REALTOR(R) and that topic is the use of Bing maps for REALTOR.ca
Let me start with some disclaimers: I am a president of a small board in South Central Alberta, which has allowed me the privilege of participating in several MLS Technology Council days that are usually run in conjunction with CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association) meetings. The last one I attended was in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I am a tech geek and a very vocal person. If I don't understand something I look for an answer online, and if I can not find that answer I ask the source. If the source can or will not give me an answer, I rant to see if my opinion is shared or if I am just losing my mind.
The topic of today’s post is why Bing maps are the wrong choice for REALTOR.ca, because I have now asked members of CREA and MTC (both at the open forum in Newfoundland and as individuals) and not got a clear answer as to why we use Bing maps. Fortunately for my clients, both Century 21 Canada and the software I use in my Luxury Homes section of my website provide accurate Google mapping, street views and simple geo-coding so my clients do not have to be affected by what, in my opinion, is a poor choice as a mapping provider on REALTOR.ca. But enough ranting – let’s look at some justification to back my opinion.
I am not on MTC, so I do not know what the case was in favour of Bing over Google maps; however, I am venturing to guess that it was financial, not quality based. I have yet to find a better feature in Bing maps over Google maps, especially once you get out of the city limits of our major metropolitan cities. In fact, the further you get away from major centers such as Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver, the more it makes you realize how poor the decision to use Bing really is.
I live in Drumheller, Alberta – well, to be more specific, on an acreage near Morrin, Alberta, almost directly north of Drumheller about 25 km. Ironically, the Bing map is slightly clearer than the Google map for this town and my farm; however, neither focuses in via Satellite much closer than about a 10 km viewpoint and Bing places the pin for the town about two km away from the actual town. For my business purposes, however, mapping in Drumheller is what is important to me. Here are two screen shots of Drumheller in satellite view: the first with Bing, and the second with Google maps. Obviously a picture is worth a thousand words, and what kind of mood would you be in if you were moving to Drumheller and wanted to see what the community looked like? Yes, you can get a map of the streets in the town, but come on – this is 2011. Everyone expects more than a paper map that you could have got from Alberta Motor Association (come to think of it, do they still give those out?). Anyway, I think we can all agree why I am frustrated by from what I am hearing is potentially a three-year agreement between Bing and CREA.
So this got me wondering if any larger centers in the province had similar problems to me and guess what? The next closest city to Drumheller, being Airdrie, has the same problem! Imagine a city the size of Airdrie not showing up on a satellite view even being a stone’s throw from the million plus population City of Calgary?
Now I am not saying that using Bing maps by CREA was a poor decision but...actually that is exactly what I am saying, unless someone can give me reason to change my opinion. If the decision was strictly financial – like let’s say Microsoft paid us to use Bing – it would still be a bad choice, as the point of merging Real Estate with online is for customers to be able to find it on their home computers and mobile devices and see what the community looks like in a street view. We can't even get a satellite view from 10 km up with Bing, let alone a street view.
The second major issue I have taken exception to is whether or not CREA did sign a three-year agreement with Bing. Who signs a three-year agreement with regards to anything in technology? That’s a life sentence!
Hmmm…let me think about three years ago. Twitter was a small start up that had just began gaining popularity; oh yeah, a little company called Facebook posted its first profits two years ago; and then there was a new device called an iPhone launched way back three and a half years ago, which is now in its 4th generation. Wow, that’s a walk down memory lane. God I hope someone gives me a good reason for signing this three-year agreement (if that is in fact the case) or, at minimum, some better explanation as to why we choose Bing maps or we all may be found in our museum with the other species who decided not to change in Drumheller, Alberta!
ADDITION AFTER POSTING ORIGINAL BLOG ABOVE & COMMENTS.
I agree with Gary Zalepa's comment that the mapping will allow a reasonable amount of zooming to see the roof of the properties listed on Realtor.ca website. However once the customer zooms in to get a better look at the property the here is the image I get on REALTOR.CA.
All I am saying is that I don't agree Bing is going to win the mapping war with Google and I don't recall boards or membership even being asked? I am not sure if anyone else noticed but all of the top 3 sites in the US use Google mapping REALTOR.com, Zillow.com and Trulia.com hmmm just sayin...