The Google LatLong blog offers a “before and after” look at some subtle refinements in the appearance of Google Maps:
September Hitwise Travel data show Google Maps stabilizing as the top mapping site, while the MapQuest brand remains strong, evidenced by its presence as the top mapping search query:
It’s not clear to me how much new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong values MapQuest. I’m sure he recognizes it as an important property and the “anchor” of the AOL local network. However if he were really smart, he’d invest in it, upgrade the technology and really make a significant effort to maintain and grow the brand. It has got to be one of the top two or three brands under the AOL umbrella. Because if/once that property fades through neglect it will be a wasting asset and a major opportunity will have been lost. We’ll see over the next year.
For its part, Google has built the top online mapping site in part because it can refer traffic to its own product. However constant attention, improvements and feature upgrades have also been a major part of Google Maps’ rise.
Microsoft/Bing has a lot of mapping firepower and could make a more aggressive move in the space. And Nokia, which owns NAVTEQ, could certainly do a good deal more for third party publishers/developers and consumers. It would actually be smart for Nokia to push in this area because it might help build/re-build the Nokia brand in the US market, which in turn might indirectly help with mobile handset sales down the line.
Right now however it appears that nobody is really going to challenge Google for mapping supremacy — especially as long as Google remains the dominant search engine.
Related: Google Developing a Free Mobile Nav App?