MapQuest Stays the Course — with Tweaks

The image “http://content.mqcdn.com/dotcom-1.0.0-RC1-build.8/cdn/images/logo-mapquest-beta.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.I spoke last week with MapQuest’s SVP-GM Jim Greiner about the changes at MapQuest and some of the new features being added to the platform and the site. Although Google has gained, MapQuest remains the top consumer brand among mapping sites and has sustained that position despite not being the most innovative or easiest to use among the mapping competitors.

The new features, however, represent a substantial upgrade to the site’s usability and set up more upgrades and improvements over time. Greiner said there would new releases every couple of weeks through the end of the year.

When I asked about user-generated content, mashups and the like Greiner said that stuff was on the horizon for MapQuest but that it was peripheral to the site’s core mission, which is to provide reliable maps and routing. That strategy has obviously been working for the company, as most people aren’t yet involved with the advanced features of online maps. (One area where the company has been doing lots of development and is arguably ahead of the curve is in mobile.)

I keep thinking about a presentation Greiner gave at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference last year. He said from the podium that there were “three simple truths” that MapQuest has learned in its more than 10 years in business:

  1. Focus on what’s truly useful to consumers
  2. Make it economically viable
  3. Aim for the mass market

MapQuest is zealously adhering to that approach — with some tweaks that acknowledge the evolution of the market and the encroach of competition.

One of the things that’s so interesting about MapQuest is that it’s so well established in the mainstream user’s mind as the site for maps and directions that it has been insulated to some degree from an all-out assault from Google and Microsoft in particular. (On the B2B side, it appears that Microsoft has made some inroads.)

To the company’s credit, it has stayed the course and hasn’t gotten caught up in this mapping “feature war.” Yahoo!, which really was the pioneer in dynamic mapping, has made a strategic decision not to fight dollar for dollar with Google and Microsoft in mapping. But it didn’t have MapQuest’s leadership position and brand strength. Consequently the company’s mapping traffic has lost ground to Google.

MapQuest, however, very clearly understands its audience and is playing to that audience, although with one eye on its competitors.

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