There are a number of things I am fascinated by: clocks and watches, old copies of Alice\u2019s Adventures in Wonderland, and maps. And if there is one thing that has made the latter more fascinating than ever it has been the explosion of digital and online maps.So not surprisingly, I have managed to play with most of the digital map products available. My favorite so far for general purposes and specifically for routing is Microsoft\u2019s MapPoint (see links below).Among the product\u2019s outstanding features are an effective and uncluttered user interface and maps that actually look good (a noticeable failure of many competing products).But for our purposes what is really interesting is that MapPoint is also available as hosted XML Web services called \u201cMapPoint Web Services.\u201d These services support a range of very useful functions, including generating maps, determining driving directions, performing distance calculations and conducting proximity searches.You can see what an implementation of the MapPoint Web service looks like at the MSN MapPoint site, a consumer service that provides location maps, driving directions and national traffic incidence maps.MapPoint Web Services were previously called \u201cMicrosoft MapPoint .Net Developer Web Services\u201d until Microsoft realized that we\u2019d all spotted the Emperor\u2019s New Clothes routine they were pulling with the .Net silliness. (Note that the Web services site still has a heady mix of both names in use, most unlike Microsoft\u2019s usual ability to play now-you-see-it, now-you-don\u2019t marketing.)Anyway, the MapPoint Web Services API (or considering that it\u2019s a Web services interface, perhaps that should be a \u201cWSAPI\u201d or even a \u201cWSA\u201d) supports a range of basic functions, such as returning the country or region name, entity ID, latitude and longitude coordinates, codes and language for a specified entity; returning the functionality and name of a specified data source; and returning an array of great circle distances, in decimal degrees, between specified points. There are also services to find addresses, render maps, and generate routes between points.MapPoint Web Services are accessed through Microsoft\u2019s Visual Studio .Net 2003 as well as Microsoft\u2019s Global XML Web Services Architecture - a specification for a Simple Object Access Protocol interface to MapPoint Web Services.You can sign up for a 45-day evaluation account after which Microsoft will contact you to tell you how much you\u2019ll have to cough up if you wish to continue to use the services.