Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Relaunched MapQuest still looks lost

Once upon a time, I could describe the folks behind MapQuest as "online cartography gods." And once upon a time, Bill Clinton was still the president and gas cost under $2 a gallon. (This particular story ran in 1997.)

Then AOL bought MapQuest, let its $1.1 billion purchase grow stale and even began stripping features out of that mapping site--just in time for Google to launch Google Maps and upend the entire Web-directions market.

At the end of June, MapQuest launched a redesigned version that it hopes will stop the bleeding and restore its relevance.

mapquest_post_neighbors.png

You may not have seen it yet. In late July, pulling up MapQuest's home page brought the same old cluttered design, with only an invitation at the top to try the new site. Clicking that brought up a notably cleaner site that lets a map take up most of the space.

You can switch between map and satellite views (but not the aerial photos offered by Bing), then click a button to overlay color-coded traffic indicators. A "360 View" button brings up MapQuest's equivalent of Google's Street View--but with far less coverage and longer load times.

MapQuest's search is far too literal. A query for "half smoke" brought up a list of businesses with "half" or "smoke" in their names, while the same search at Google yielded such local purveyors of the delicacy as Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street NW and Shirlington's Weenie Beenie.

MapQuest's directions work fine--if you're in a car. Otherwise, forget it: Its site doesn't offer walking, transit or bicycling directions (although its iPhone app will offer pedestrian guidance). It doesn't show subway stations by default--or even let you look them up by clicking one of the category buttons atop the map.

The site works, but it does so much less than Google Maps--which not only keeps evolving but also comes preinstalled on every iPhone and Android phone--it's hard to see how this site gets any traction. This could still work well for people trying to figure out how to get to AOL's campus out by Dulles Airport... but there are a lot fewer people heading there these days.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 4, 2010; 8:11 AM ET
Categories:  Location awareness , Search  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: PostPoints tip: Pick the right format for your music
Next: Sites to e-cycle (and maybe profit from) your e-junk

Comments

Way back when, Mapquest published a paper road atlas. It was great. I could look at the paper map and enter a cross referenced code online for the particular area and get more detail. It also provided updated info after the paper version was published. Worked great but it went by the wayside many years ago.

Posted by: tbva | August 5, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Bob, have you tried the old Mapquest using Firefox? I ask because when I use it with Firefox it does not perform well (compared to IE).

Posted by: Nohti | August 5, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Bob, have you tried the old Mapquest using Firefox? I ask because when I use it with Firefox it does not perform well (compared to IE).

Posted by: Nohti | August 5, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Bob, have you tried the old Mapquest using Firefox? I ask because when I use it with Firefox it does not perform well (compared to IE).

Posted by: Nohti | August 5, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Have you seen the new Bing maps? It's much easier to use and has great imagery. I found this review http://www.41latitude.com/post/897973389/bing-maps-redesign handy. Works in IE, FF, or even Safari quite well. Best of all, there's an ajax version as well as silverlight for those fancy transitions.

Posted by: adlerkevin | August 5, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I've been using Bing maps lately. The site seems more accurate on particular street addresses than GoogleMaps. On a totally unrelated topic: It took forever to discover your new whereabouts on the redesigned WaPo site. Did you do something to be banished? :)

Posted by: scubatankman | August 8, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Not only that but the top of this page asks me to sign in but I am already signed in and my user name displays...go figure.

Posted by: tbva | August 8, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Mapquest on Iphone offers turn by turn vocal directions, Google maps does not. Mapquest will recalculate directions automatically if you change your route. Mapquest has easy to use overlays for gas, rest areas, restaurants, etc. Mapquest for Iphone is a free app.

I just went on a two week road trip and used Mapquest extensively. When I am in an unknown area it is significantly listen to the voice directions than to look at the screen while trying to get to the correct lane.

Google maps is far superior for searches and transit directions.

Posted by: wolvesbill | August 9, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company