Satellite views of a town are often neat - until you realize it's hard to recognize places by their rooftops. So Google seems to have made a wise (and possibly Microsoft-inspired) update to Google Maps by releasing what it simply calls "45° imagery."
45° imagery is quite similar to what Microsoft/Bing Maps has termed a "Bird's Eye" view. Or, in fairness to Google, it's just what you get when Street View and a top-down view are sort of averaged out.
Anyway, a post on the LatLong Blog explained, "This type of imagery allows you to explore the sides of buildings and other locations -- you can even rotate around a particular point of interest using the compass ring to view it from four different perspectives."
As for how the feature works, "To see the new imagery, simply zoom into an area while in Satellite mode. Where we have 45° imagery available, the imagery will switch from an overhead to 45° angle as you zoom all the way in. You can then pan smoothly across the map to get a richer view of the area."
Just note that 45° imagery isn't available everywhere (or even close to it) at the moment. Google thought it better to release the feature now and expand its coverage in the months ahead.