Last week (Oct 12), MapQuest announced the release of the beta version of their mapping website. Before the days of Google Maps, my primary mapping website was MapQuest. Somewhere along the way I moved over to MSN Maps (I liked their interface better). These were the days of static maps and moving around required a refresh of the entire page.
Then Web2.0 came along and so did Google Maps.... Google Maps became much primary mapping software. They continuously updated their maps, imagery and the way in which their interface worked. I loved it. And then they added Google Earth and that sealed the deal.
Microsoft has money and managed to throw tons of it at its mapping group and the website that they came out with was nice. Slowly they caught up and in many ways they surpassed Google Maps (search results, 3D in the same window as their 2D mapping interface - ingenious and being more open to developers - GoogleEarth is not yet open to devs). Even their imagery for locations that I constantly lookup is more up to date. Though I love sketch up and still use GoogleEarth for hardcore 3D viewing of maps. All that is for another post!
MapQuest during all of this seemed to be falling behind. It was a shame because in my opinion they were the trail-blazers to web based mapping, getting directions, etc. (Even today a lot of older folk tell me to MapQuest the directions to their homes). So I am glad that they have released this new version.
But I wonder:
- Are they to late to the game?
- Do they have the money to get all the imagery required to be up to date with the big 2?
- What about the 3D visualization capabilities? (In the future this might be the main way to navigate and browse maps and in this, Microsoft has gotten a clear advantage as they already have a web-browser based 3D viewer).
As for the interface:
- It is defiantly nice and a ton better. (more info on their blog:http://blog.mapquest.com) My biggest peeve was that you had to put the address in separate fields. Now you can put it all in one address field.
- Editing of directions is possible, but it is still not as nifty as Google Maps and Live Maps.
- Mouse scroll wheels don't work!
This is just a beta version at this time. I am sure that in the coming weeks we will hear more about the changes that they are going to be incorporating in their site.
And in my opinion it is to early to write off MapQuest's come back. Because remember that the primary reasons that we use online maps are for directions and finding businesses. Directions are more or less standard (though walking directions would be a big plus for them). Relevant search results is extremely important and could decide if they can still be a relevant player in this marker (remember I moved from Microsoft Maps to Google Maps and then back to Live Maps primarily because of the search results that I was getting back).
In a final note -
At the highest zoom level, MapQuest had very good orthographic imagery for Denver. Though this imagery was available only at the very highest zoom level only. (See images below).
Zoom Level 16