Microsoft Live Search Maps (aka Virtual Earth) at http://maps.live.com, is fantastic web technology that just keeps on getting better and better with birds-eye views, persistent collections, directions, etc. However, given that its rendering is straight HTML and DHTML, the visual experience when zooming and panning is sometimes a little jarring in that you see black patches while tiles load, and tile layers pop instantly from one to the other during zooming.
The underlying graphics functionality in Silverlight provides an opportunity for a smoother viewing experience. And I’ve had fun writing a Silverlight 1.1 (note Silverlight 1.1 is still in its Alpha stage) that provides just that. You can find it, along with the source, at the Community Gallery on silverlight.net. Click on the screenshot to visit the app:
(Extra points if you can tell me where screenshot is from – other than Rob and Dave!)
This app asynchronously requests tiles from the VirtualEarth tile servers (important note about this below). Upon completion of the load, an animation is set up to fade the image from fully transparent to fully opaque, while the tiles below the image remain in place. This results in a very nice fade-in effect as you zoom in and out and move around. That and a continuous make for a great map browsing experience. (And going fullscreen in IE with F11 is just beautiful.)
Important Note: The URLs used to access the tile servers are not guaranteed to be supported by Microsoft and at any point are subject to change where they would no longer work. Production code should not take any dependency on these tile servers.