The launch of Virtual Earth 3D makes the power of Microsoft’s new online mapping platform available to Web developers as well as Live Search customers. Virtual Earth 3D provides developers with an immersive 3D application environment to implement searching, browsing and organizing local information. At launch, 3D terrain models are available globally, and 15 major U.S. cities boast textured building models.

Web developers can implement Virtual Earth 3D applications by using the new features available in Version 4 of the Virtual Earth API. The Virtual Earth SDK includes a “What’s New” section to get developers started with Version 4 of the API and the 3D map control. The SDK and other tools and information for programming Virtual Earth and related Live platform applications are available here at dev.live.com. Additional updated information includes “How To” articles and a Gallery of VE applications. Also, be sure to check out our forum.

The Virtual Earth map control software development kit (SDK) consists of a set of conceptual topics about Virtual Earth and a complete set of reference topics that cover the Virtual Earth map control application programming interface (API). For V4, the map control has been updated to provide the APIs developers need to develop new 3D applications or update their existing 2D projects to the 3D platform. Either way, developers can program against the new 3D APIs in the same way that they use the 2D APIs because they share the same map control. Including the 3D maps in existing sites requires very little additional effort.

Dev.live.com also provides a Gallery of live web applications that implement Virtual Earth APIs. These serve as examples of the diversity of applications that are possible as well as sources of sample code that can help accelerate new implementations. The Gallery also includes the first application built using Virtual Earth 3D: My3DVistas.com. This application shows how web sites can use elevation data to take advantage of the 3D environment in addition to the previously supported 2D controls.