Search Engines Chart Paths To Map Success

    November 28, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Among the big four Internet search destinations, AOL’s MapQuest leads a field that is getting very crowded with MSN, Google, and Yahoo pushing the mapping envelope.

Search engines may be highly desired destinations based on their accurate relevance, but the need for accuracy by mapmakers puts even Google’s obsessive algorithm tweaking to shame. Mapping looks to become the next great web service, as people turn to map sites online as they do to search and do email.

An AP report noted how AOL’s MapQuest still dominates the driving directions and mapping traffic online. Yahoo and Google have been building their map and direction applications based on NAVTEQ data, while MSN purchased MapBlast and integrated it into MSN.

MapQuest got 71 percent of visitor traffic to mapping sites in September, the report said, while Yahoo had 32 percent and Google 25 percent; people tend to visit multiple mapping sites, as they seek to verify directions and perhaps find a better route on one site over another.

Local search and advertising fuel the chase by the search engine companies. People move online to find the information that once was dominated by newspapers and phone books. The Yellow Pages providers haven’t taken the challenge laying down, but search engines have an initial point of contact familiarity that the Yellow Pages sites do not.

From that initial point of contact, search engines can drive traffic to their maps and travel directions. Those contact points come from not just visiting the search site, but from using toolbars provided as web browser add-ons with extra functionality. Also, Google has deals in place with Mozilla and Opera to make Google the default search from their web browsers as well.

The challenge to MapQuest comes as they attempt to gauge the needs of online users, and innovate to those needs. Do people want a high focus on accurate directions and maps, or will open APIs allow other developers to make a better MapQuest than the company can make for itself?

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