Bing Maps for Windows UWP apps

Why no feedback via UserVoice or Connect?

If you want to be proactive about engaging your customers, please consider establishing some conduit for developers to report bugs and/or make product requests. The fact that Bing Maps seems to have no presence on UserVoice or Connect sends the signal that
there is little interest in feedback from your customers. And it's unclear whether
this forum is viewed only as a self help forum rather than a valid conduit for feature requests and bug reports. Other than RickyB, there appears to be no MSFT participation which is troubling.
Over the last decade Bing Maps has floundered drastically in comparison to Google maps due largely to the lack of continuity - an often capriciously different API with different capabilities accompanied the release of each mapping control.
Some hope for the future seems to be possible given the new 8.1 map control. It would seem important to make sure the most crucial features for ISVs are covered in VNext releases of this control, but given the lack of opportunities to
influence product direction, no beta releases, and no UserVoice, my confidence that you're going to get this right is limited.
Help us to help you. (Or else open source the control!)
Every single Bing Maps app/site has a way to provide feedback built into the app/site. The benefit of providing feedback in this way is that it starts a workflow with the Bing Maps engineering team and gets routed to the proper people based on the type of
feedback being provided. This is a lot faster than using something like UserVoice to collect feedback over a period of time and then going through them at a later date.
There are also a number of other ways to provide feedback such as the forums (average response time is less than 24 hours), the Bing Maps Enterprise Support team for licensed customers (they provide bug/case id's which can be used to get status updates at
a later date), twitter #bingmaps, Bing Maps blog comments: There is a Bing Maps category in the connect site which is mainly used for beta versions of API's.
Recently we created a new Bing Maps team called the Bing Maps customer advisory team. One of the main focuses of this team is to ensure customers get the most out of the platform and to take feedback from the field and work with the engineering team to see
how we can prioritize the feedback into our future development roadmap. This team is primarily focus on licensed Enterprise customers and is designed to put the customers’ needs first. This team does assist the sales team with technical questions but does
not have a sales quota meaning that at the end of the day their goal is to make customers happy, not to sell Bing Maps. I'm on this team.
We also have Bing Maps MVP's who are experts in Bing Maps development and leaders in the Bing Maps development community. They don't work for Microsoft. They are often made aware of roadmap information early on and asked to provide feedback based on their
experience. In total there are 9 Bing Maps development MVP's worldwide in 7 countries. You can find them listed here:
In regards to your other points:
Several people from the Bing Maps engineering team check the forums on a regular basis to see what common issues developers are having. Many of them do answer questions.... if I don't get to them first. I like to be responsive on the forums and usually
answer questions within a few hours of them being posted and before anyone else has a chance to even see them. This is likely why it might not look like there are many MSFT people on the forums. But if you look around you will notice that there have been a
number of posts that I wasn't sure about and others from MSFT jumped in. Often, if I come across a question that I need help with I'll reach out to someone on our engineering team to get there input and will respond to the forum. I also use the forums to come
up with most of the ideas behind the blog posts I write on Bing MapsI've been helping out with the Bing maps forums answering questions and moderating for about 7 years now. When I started at Microsoft there was only one forum category for Virtual Earth. The name of the product changed but the forums never did. We also
had 11 different API's at the time which made the forums pretty difficult to use. One of first tasks at Microsoft was to create several different Bing Maps forums based on the different API categories. I also took ownership of the forums as the previous owner
of the forum had long since changed teams and was inactive in the forums. I take a lot of pride in providing accurate and timely responses on the forums. Perhaps I should hold back a bit on being so responsive and give others a chance to try and answer some
questionsGoogle has excelled in the consumer space with their maps, but when it comes to the enterprise space, where people pay for the maps, Bing Maps is very competitive. I used to be in technical sales for Bing maps and whenever I came across a situation where
the customer was looking at both Bing and Google maps they ended up going with Bing Maps 9 out of 10 times. There are several reasons for this. One of which is that it's pretty easy to get in touch with someone on the Bing Maps team that truly cares about
your business and who want to help you solve your business problem and will help you solve any development issues you might run into as well.As for continuality, Bing Maps has actually been pretty good with this with the exception of Windows Phone 8/8.1 where the API is fairly different from our other Bing Maps API's. There is something that I have brought to the attention of our WP maps
team. One of the common pieces of feedback we get from customers is that it’s fairly easy to move code from one API to another. If you take a close look at Bing Maps Silverlight, WPF, and Windows Store SDK's, they do have some differences but there are
a lot of similarities that make it fairly easy if you know one to pick up another and create a map with minimal differences. Because these SDK's are so similar it was really easy for me to create a spatial library that works across all the .NET
versions of Bing Maos:
As for the future of Bing Maps, there is a lot of things going on. In fact there has a been a ton of development going on with Bing Maps over the years but one mistake that was made is that our team wasn't make these things well known. This has led some
customers to think that Bing Maps has not been innovating which is unfortunate because there has been a lot of really cool things that have been released. This is something that we are working on changing this year. Our engineering teams will be posting blog
posts about their releases regularly now. There has been a couple of posts already in the past month. Check them out here:
If you want a glimpse into one of the many things that are in the works for Bing Maps check out the Bing Maps Preview app in Windows 8.1. This app has some of the highest resolution 3D buildings I've ever seen that were not manually created by architects.
If you are doing development with the Bing Maps Windows Store SDK you might find my book on
creating location intelligent Windows Store apps useful. I made this available as a free ebook so that anyone can benefit for this resource.
I hope this response addresses your questions and concerns. We are constantly innovating and are always listening to our customer feedback to help shape the future of Bing Maps. I'd also like to thank you for bring up your concerns. Let me know if you have
any more questions, concerns or feedback.
Ricky Brundritt
Bing Maps Customer Advisory Team
Thanks for your very thoughtful and comprehensive reply.
I've been closely watching development of the 8.1 control and am excited by the prospect of incorporating this control into my own apps. My testing to date has shown great promise.
But at the same time, there are features missing which are showstoppers for my application. Without something like UserVoice, where customers can actually vote on which features are critical for their own apps, how do you prioritize development?
There's no visibility that bugs / feature requests I've brought up on this forum are being addressed at all. Instead of continuing product development, confident that needed features are being addressed, I'm perpetually on-hold, waiting
for the next release. This missing information causes delays getting products to market.
I'm reminded of the situation with offline tiles. A year and a half after the world screams about the absence of a crucial feature it finally appears in VNext. DOH! Had there been some early feedback mechanism, that sort of glaring omission
would not have occurred. 
I saw your post about 30 minutes after you made it late last night but decided to wait till this morning to respond. UserVoice is something we have been discussing internally for a couple of years now. Two and a half years ago one of the
MVP’s brought it up at the MVP summit and we had a discussion. At the time even the MVP’s were unsure if it made sense. I personally was always for the idea and have regularly brought this idea up within the team. To implement something like this we would
need the right teams to commit to making use of this otherwise this would be just a black hole were feature requests go to die. There is a team that have been discussing this recently and there are valid Pro’’s and Con’s to UserVoice. Having thought through
this idea last night I’m not entirely sure anymore if it makes sense for Bing Maps.
I’ve used UserVoice to make feature requests for a couple of other products and when I made the requests I thought it was great. However, in the past two years I’ve submitted about 15 different feature requests for different products (some
MSFT, some not). A few of the ideas are the top ten highest voted ideas now, yet only two of the feature requests have actually be closed and marked as delivered. The first one I never heard that it was closed, and the second one I received an email announcement
recently saying that this feature had been delivered. Looking to what had actually been delivered I found that it wasn’t even close to the feature I had requested. In both these cases UserVoice failed me. Now it’s not entirely UserVoice’s fault but the end
results were unsatisfactory.
When it comes to Pro’s UserVoice provides a place where developers can submit their feature requests and/or vote for ideas they would also like to see. It’s also a place where it provides developers with the false sense that they have
more visibility into the features/bugs they submitted. The truth however is that UserVoice actually provides a lot less than what is already available for Bing Maps.
Here are a number of different Con’s about UserVoice that the more I think about them the less I think it makes sense for Bing Maps. After I list these I will also go into details around the feature request you mentioned to show how these
Con’s would have actually gotten your feature request a lot less traction:
Anyone can submit a feature request without there being little to no information around the business case for the idea. This means that someone who knows little or nothing about a product can submit an idea and it carries the same weight
as someone who knows the product inside out. Sure, voting should help differentiate these but this also creates another issue.Anyone can vote for an idea, where they actually have a need for the feature or not. When I was testing out the UserVoice I took one of the feature requests I had and I sent an email out to some of my friends and asked them to vote for
the idea so that it moved up the ratings. This resulted in the idea ending up in the top 10 feature requests. I was the only one who actually wanted the feature and had a case for it, but to be honest, there really wasn’t a good business case for it and this
brings up another issue.UserVoice may seem like it gives developers a lot more visibility than say the forums or the Bing Maps Technical support team, but the reality is that it doesn’t. The only visibility that you actually get from UserVoice is if other developers
voted for your idea and did the idea get delivered. You actually get no more insight into the roadmap of the product than you would normally. Sure ideas can be marked as planned or under review, but this might not actually be done. As it is, anything related
to the roadmap of the product is usually confidential and are not usually made public until a feature is actually delivered. Customers can sometimes get early insight into the road map if they have an NDA with Microsoft. There are several reasons for this;
Even though a feature may be planned it’s not unusual for its release to be pushed back or cancelled all together. Things change and what might have sounded like a good idea at one time might not be at another.Some ideas may work great during in test environments but don’t work well in when in production. Bing Maps has a massive amount of data and a massive number of requests made against its servers. If a new feature requires more resources
than normal, the volume of traffic in the production could potentially have a negative effect on the whole platform. It might be able to resolve the issue, or it might not be. What if the solution requires increasing the number of servers that are available?
This takes time and costs a lot of money. This could potentially turn what started out as a good idea or a simple quick win feature, into something that requires significant investment and a less compelling business case. How would you feel if your idea went
from planned to either cancelled, or no status?
UserVoice provides the product groups, the people who create the road map for the product, less visibility into the business case of the idea which is what the key component of getting a feature request developed. It costs time and money
to add new features. There is little insight into who is requesting the feature and why it truly makes sense to add to the product.
UserVoice can have a really negative affect. What if the top rated ideas never get developed? Everyone can see this and it can create the false sense that this is just a black hole for ideas and that the team isn’t actually listing to
users. There are several reasons why;
One of the most common bug/feature request is about data. Unlike most of Microsoft’s products Bing maps is not just an API. There is hundreds of Petabytes of data that power it and that data is constantly changing. New roads, homes and
subdivisions are being built every day. Some addresses actually change from time to time. Other data like Venue maps change even more often. A mall may have 20 stores in it, but how often does a store change or move within a mall. The answer is fairly regularly.
So what does this have to do with UserVoice? No matter what wording we put on a UserVoice page people will submit data related feature requests there. As it is, every Bing Maps forum has a sticky note at the very top explaining how to submit data issues, yet
these issues are regularly still posted to the forums. This means that we will likely see a lot of these show up on UserVoice. For every legitimate feature request that’s made for Bing Maps there is easily hundreds, if not thousands of data related bugs/feature
requests made. What if these show up on UserVoice? Some of the truly good ideas will be buried.
With UserVoice you are usually left waiting for the feature until it’s delivered. What do you do in the meantime?Some ideas simply cannot be delivered. It might require a simple code change but there is a lot more to Bing Maps than just an API. There is a ton of data that comes from a large number of data providers. Each data provider usually puts
some sort of restriction around how their data can be used. Many of these are clearly stated in the Bing Maps terms of use. That alone is a common reason for some feature requests never being developed. There is also geopolitical things to think about as well.
What if everyone wanted Bing Maps to have GPS accurate maps of China. We have very detailed maps available for this region is you use the correct culture code but even then you will find that if you go to China with a GPS device that the maps will not line
up. This is done on purpose. The reason for this is that the Chinese government requires all mapping services to do this. There are a number of geopolitical related issues like this that are reported daily. Most users are simply not aware that these things
legally cannot be done. If you were unaware of these restrictions and saw this idea at the top of the list and it never was delivered, would this not make you think like we aren’t listening?
When you submit a feature request through the forums or to the Bing Maps Enterprise Support team you are reaching out to a real live person and not posting an idea on to a list in the hopes that someone looks into it. In addition to these
resources I also regularly tell developers to feel free to send their feature requests directly to me. I get a couple of emails each month with ideas. When you have access to people like this you can always contact them at a later date and ask them what the
status is. Sometimes you might get some insight, other times you might not. At the end of the day someone would have looked into this and actually asked internally for a status update. This would potentially provide a lot more insight than UserVoice will.
When you use the forums, support or one of the many other resources I mentioned in my earlier response there is a much higher possibility of someone providing a workable solution that you can implement today, rather than having to wait
until the feature is delivered which could take months, if not years to be delivered. I can’t count the number of times I’ve created a solution for someone who had a showstopper/road block in their development and I was able to provide them with a workable
solution the same day so they could move on with their development. Many of the feature requests we have didn’t start out as feature requests, but started out as someone asking for help on the forums. After assisting them and truly understanding where their
road block was, I would decide that even though that person didn’t ask for it, this would make for a good feature request and I was able to create a business case for it as I had a lot more insight into what the user was trying to do than I would ever get
from UserVoice. When I know who submits a feature request or who the people are that are struggling with the same things I can put together a more compelling business case for an idea. From a business side of things which makes more sense, prioritizing an
idea that several developers who are likely using the platform free, or prioritizing an idea where there a few less requests but they are coming from large licensed users who pay for the service. If you were the one paying for the service, how would you feel
if the priority was given to the other idea?
Now to focus on your feature request of Offline Tiles as an example. To date there has been 7 people who have requested this feature. Four of them where companies, two of which actually have a license. I also consider you a company as
I was aware of your website and some of the tools you had made in the past. The other three were from individual developers.
The first feature request for this came from me about 4 or 5 years ago. I wanted to be able to point to local tiles inside of the Silverlight control. I had an idea of being able to dynamically turn my data into tiles to help performance
since the raw data is likely smaller than the tiles themselves. I considered myself an individual developer in this case. The other individual developers wanted to be able to store the map tiles of the map offline and access them locally. This is strictly
against the terms of use. Some wanted to use OpenStreetMap tiles instead, that is also against the terms of use, you can't use road maps from other data providers in Bing Maps.
About 3 and half years ago I had a customer (before I worked at Microsoft) who wanted to load local tiles from a zip file onto the map in a Windows Phone 7 app. This was after the WP maps had already been released and up until that point
there really wasn’t anyone who asked for this feature other than me, and just thought it might help performance and I didn’t have any customers asking for it. With this customer I built them a working solution within a week that did everything they asked.
They used password protected zip files to store the tiles as they were selling tile layers to users. It required more than just the ability to point to a local resource. That customer used this solution in about 4 apps and had a lot of success and made a lot
of money, but they never exceeded the free terms of use so they never license for Bing Maps. The reason for this is that the maps were primarily used offline, so the maps were never authenticating. I later found out that this was a major violation of the terms
of use for Bing Maps. At the time the map control could not legally be used offline.
About 3 years ago you asked about this on the forums and I provided you with some insight into how to achieve this without providing any code. Mainly because by that time I had found out that using the map control offline was not allowed
legally. You had pointed to a thread on Stackoverflow and a WP UserVoice feature request, however both of those talked about specifically caching the map tiles of the map offline which is strictly against the terms of use.
About a year ago I had a licensed customer who wanted to do this on WP8. With WP8 offline maps became available and using your own tile layers offline no longer back a legal issue. I managed to create them a solution which they were happy
with and required little work on their side to implement. Again, this app was successful but the customer didn’t need any additional licenses for this. As you know in WP8 Microsoft introduced offline maps for the first time. To be able to do that there was
a lot of things that had to be done behind the scenes, other than development to make this happen. Primarily using the data offline had to be approved by the data providers which is a lot more complex than a simple yes or no. This also required a whole now
map control be created that could work offline using vector data (tiles take up too much space). This was a massive development effort and didn’t leave much time for adding a lot of features, and is likely the reason why simple things like pushpins were not
as simple to do in WP8 as it was in WP7. In addition to this tile layers in general were very limited in functionality. The team did work on adding in a lot more features, but these features couldn’t be released until WP8 was updated, which brings us to WP8.1
where we have a lot more functionality when it comes to tile layers. The reason why this made it into WP8.1 was that the team was making some improvements to the tile layer functionality in the map control and they were able to add this feature in without
it requiring much additional time. It was added mainly due to it being a convenient time to add it, rather than there being a demand for it (which there hasn’t been).
About 6 months ago I had a large licensed customer ask for this for the WPF control as they also wanted to dynamically create tiles for performance. I built a working solution and you know what we found, rendering tiles on the same device
that will be displaying them is a really bad idea. The performance was fine with small data sets but when we put a decent size data set behind it the performance was horrendous. We ended up coming up with a completely different solution for this customer that
worked great and this generated additional licenses.
Now let’s go through all this information and see what we can learn:
2 of people requesting this (me and the last customer) thought this would help with performance with dynamically created tile layers. However this turned out to be a bad idea.2 of the people wanted to use the base map tiles offline at time when using the maps offline wasn’t legally allowed.3 of the people actually ended up with functional applications. Two of which received fully working code samples within days of asking for help. Two of which also did this at a time when it wasn’t allowed to use the map control offline
according to the terms of use.Only 1 customer actually required any licenses and thus generated any revenue of the platform. The license was actually fairly small as well.
Looking at these points, where is the business case? There really isn’t one. The amount of time it would have taken to add this in easily would have cost more than the revenue it would have generated. However, there is still a use case
for it and it’s a nice feature to have available, so adding it in when the team is already working on that part of the map control makes a lot more sense, and is what happened.
All this said, take a step back and look at this thread. Had you requested that Bing Maps use UserVoice on UserVoice (ignore the bad logic here and look at the process), do you think you would have gotten anywhere close to this kind of
insight. I’m almost certain you wouldn’t. Something else that you will likely find interesting. When I happen to see your post on Saturday you received a response within a couple of hours. Not bad considering it took me nearly an hour to put the response together.
But what you didn’t see is that after I responded to this post I then sent an internal email to my team and a few others who have been discussing UserVoice and we had a number of emails go back and forth on this idea again, on a Saturday. By submitting the
idea directly using the forums and me taking action on it, a workflow started and the right people heard about this thread in a short period of time. With UserVoice this would not happen. On there we would wait until an idea had some votes behind it before
even looking at it as that’s one of purposes of UserVoice, filter out the good ideas based on votes.
Now consider, what if someone asked for nautical charts to be added to Bing Maps. I've actually had two large companies ask for this. Based on the number of reviews on your app it looks like there could be a business case for this. However, if this
was added to Bing Maps then there would be no need for your app. We like to work with partners, not against them. You have a really good solution for this already that people like. You also have the code and data ready. Would it not make more sense to point
the customers to you as someone who can create what they are looking for than for Bing Maps to add this in? I'm sure you would enjoy the additional business. These customers ended up working with a Bing Maps partner who built out solutions for them that are
similar to your application but have some additional functionality that is specific their business needs. These customers are happy and have what they want. The only investment required from the Bing Maps side of things was connecting the customer with the
partners. Everyone ended up happy. Will Bing Maps ever add nautical charts to the maps? I would say it's unlikely, there would be a huge liability issue and even if there was wording in the licenses that stated Microsoft is not liable the negative PR that
could be generated if someone grounded a ship while using these charts on Bing Maps would be a nightmare.
As for the possibility of Bing Maps making use of UserVoice, it’s still something we are considering and discussing. Do I think it will add value to developers, possibly a little. Do I think it will provide more insight than what can already
be gained using the forums or by contacting the Bing Maps Enterprise Support team, no.
The fact that "To date there has been 7 people who have requested this feature" (offline tiles) speaks volumes about how little confidence ISVs have engaging with MSFT. You've got 7 requests, while on Android and iPhone this feature
has spawned hundreds of (expensive) products. Taking just nautical, aero, topo, and skiing apps into consideration:
Android nautical, aeronautical, topo, skiing maps:
iOS nautical, aeronautical, topo, skiing maps:
If the main goal is to sell Bing tile access to businesses rather than establish the platform as a viable player for ISVs and consumers, then I completely agree you're on the right course!
I think you missed one of the key points about the offline use of the maps. It's has been against the terms of use until recently when it was allowed for the Windows Phone control. We have had lots of requests about using the maps in general offline but
the conversation is usually ends when it's pointed out that the terms of use do not allow using the map controls offline.
All of the product categories I mentioned have offline overlay layers which have been produced by ISVs. Having an offline Bing map base layer is usually a nice-to-have feature (especially if the layers can be made semi-transparent) but is not
absolutely critical to product functionality.
The offline restrictions applied to the whole map control as well, not just the content. There is also a restriction that around sustainably replacing the base maps as well (Item 3.2p in the terms of use)
For the sake of being thorough, you can find the connect site for submitting feature requests and reporting other feedback here: Notice there is also an option to vote up/down ideas.
There is now a UserVoice page for Bing. This includes a section for maps here:

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