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Only You Can Help Digital Maps

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With an array of mapping technologies, satellite images, and aerial photos, map and local sites under the purview of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL still need the kind of information only local users can provide.

Search engines have long made their living off other people’s content, exchanging access to an algorithm that finds their sites when relevant to a search for the indexing that takes place. Now that the battle for lucrative local advertising dollars has moved online, the big four need to outdo each other with content.

And as before, that content will come from users, an AP report noted.

AOL operates Mapquest, which has been the most heavily used mapping site online. Maps figure prominently in the plans for the other three companies. Google merged its Maps and Local services earlier in 2005, and Microsoft debuted its Windows Live Local as the new front end to MSN Virtual Earth.

There are some types of content that high technology can’t collect. AP noted how Microsoft will trial a program that canvasses mountain bikers for good trail routes. Yahoo has long solicited user ratings and reviews on the various businesses available in its Local listings.

As they work at improving the driving directions and local listings, AP said the big four have to embrace a new challenge: walking and biking directions. Ask Jeeves has had foot directions as an option for its UK-based Local site, so it should be something the others could implement as well.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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