Redfin just released a new version of the site. In addition to improving our short sale detection in Orange County and parts of LA and making our neighborhood pages a little more discoverable from the map page, we switched to using Google Maps exclusively instead of a mix of Microsoft Virtual Earth and Google Maps.
We decided to do this now because our two-year contract with Microsoft was up for renewal. We did an evaluation and figured out a way to draw a large number of pushpins on GMaps very quickly. When we went with VE in 2006, GMaps was faster out of the box but slower once we started drawing on it, especially on IE6.
We like a lot of things about going with Google Maps:
- Fast downloads
- Fast drawing speeds
- Broad browser support
- High-resolution Geoeye-1 satellite images
We don’t like that we can no longer embed Bird’s Eye views on our site and that 3 developers spent four weeks to do the switch instead of adding more features. Plus, Redfin has had a very good relationship with the Microsoft Virtual Earth team, which we’ll miss. We’d like to give special thanks to Sujatha, the Microsoft PM who answered our e-mails, calls, and random entreaties with the utmost of professionalism and speed. We really only have good things to say about VE. Anyone looking to build a map-based Web 2.0 site has two solid choices.
In the end, it was speed, speed, speed that convinced us to switch. In our worst case scenario of 500 pushpins on the map in IE6, GMaps is 385% faster.
“Every millisecond counts” is a “Googley” UX design principle that we remember from Marissa Mayer’s evangelism of speed and that we strongly believe in (see here, here, and here). Users who come to Redfin’s site now should see maps load and render just a little bit quicker, which makes us feel a little Googley inside.
That’s it! Happy holidays from Redfin Engineering. You won’t hear from us until February, as we’re already working on a major release that will take a little more time. But it’ll be worth it. For those of you using the site, can you notice a performance difference? Leave a comment and let us know!
Bonus for developers: read about our experience switching from Virtual Earth to Google Maps.