Microsoft has improved street level images in Bing's Maps search engine, rendering the view with more continuity when users move up or down a road.

"In the past you explored Streetside imagery by navigating between 'bubbles,' or discrete 360 degree views, and moving down the street was accomplished by jumping from bubble to bubble," wrote Microsoft official Chris Pendleton.

In addition to this smoother sideways-panning navigation, the Streetside interface now has a strip at the top that shows a map image indicating the block being viewed and a strip at the bottom with information like street names, business listings, bus stops and storefronts.

The technology came from a project at the Microsoft research unit called Street Slide. It works only on desktop browsers.

Once a novelty, street level images have become a popular feature in Bing and Google, used by people to get a better sense of what a street looks like from the perspective of a pedestrian or a driver.

These ground level images enhance the user experience of people using Bing Maps and Google Maps to obtain driving directions, and make these search engines' business listing data more visually attractive.

However, in its pursuit of street level coverage, Google in particular has run into trouble, as some government agencies and groups have raised privacy concerns because its Street View feature captures images of private residence facades, vehicles and people, although faces and license plate numbers are later intentionally blurred.

In addition, Google's Street View photo-taking cars for years also captured data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, including passwords, website addresses and the full text of email messages of unsuspecting users. Google has repeatedly apologised about this and said that it wasn't aware that its cars were collecting this type of data.