Which Is Better Google Maps Or Mapquest - MapQuest created the world's first online mapping and turn-by-turn directions service. Launched in 1996, nearly a decade before Google Maps, it was once so popular and ubiquitous that its brand name was used as a verb. For example, "I don't know how to get to Phil's house. Can you map out the directions and print them out?"
Much has changed in the world of online mapping since the mid-1990s, including the emergence of tough competitors like Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, and more. But MapQuest remains strong as a website, a mobile app launched in 2012, and a licensor of its core technology. MapQuest continues to leverage its reputation for accuracy and privacy to deliver directions to millions of consumers and business partners every day.
Which Is Better Google Maps Or Mapquest
MapQuest pioneered the development of geocoding technology and algorithms that turned satellite imagery and road map data into the first searchable turn-by-turn directions. Today, the company continues to improve its routing technology to not only provide the most accurate directions, but also to offer advanced features such as fuel efficiency and real-time viewing of traffic cameras.
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Before we dig into MapQuest's nifty features, let's go back to the company's early days—when it sold actual paper maps—and see how Google undermined MapQuest's dominance in the online mapping game.
The original MapQuest, believe it or not, was born in the 60s. In 1967, the commercial printing company R.R. Donnelley & Sons started a paper map division called MapQuest, which produced driving maps for gas stations.
As the decades passed and computing technology improved, MapQuest went digital and started as its own company in the 1990s under the less appealing name of Geosystems Global Corporation. Then in 1996, when the Internet was still in its infancy and there was Netscape. The most popular web browser, the name MapQuest, was revived as the world's first online mapping website, MapQuest.com [source: Harlan].
Coincidentally, 1996 was also the year two Stanford University graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed the "PageRank" algorithm that became Google. But from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, MapQuest was virtually the only name in the online mapping game, accounting for nearly 100% of the online direction finding market share. America Online (now AOL), another early Internet giant, bought MapQuest for $1.1 billion in 1999 [source: Harlan]. When Verizon bought AOL in 2015, MapQuest was part of the package. In 2019, Verizon sold MapQuest to ad tech company System1. (Full disclosure: System1 is also the parent company of HowStuffWorks).
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The first threat to MapQuest's dominance came in 2005 with the launch of Google Maps. Google was already the king of search engines back in 2005, and the first version of Google Maps had some features that MapQuest didn't have, such as the ability to search maps for businesses, parks, and other points of interest.
But industry experts believe the real turning point for MapQuest came in 2007, when Google removed all links to competing mapping websites like MapQuest and Yahoo Maps from its search results. Without any visibility on Google, the most widely used search engine, MapQuest quickly began to lose market share and was officially overtaken by Google Maps in January 2009 [source: Sterling].
MapQuest's next hit came with the release of the iPhone in 2007, which not only revolutionized mobile technology but also shipped with the first mapping app, none other than Google Maps (called "Maps only on the original iPhone") [source: Welch]. MapQuest slowly released its mobile app, which it did in 2012, the same year Apple ditched Google and launched Apple Maps.One of the best features of the first MapQuest app was free turn-by-turn voice commands, a first for a mobile navigation app [source: Cunningham].
Fast forward to today. While MapQuest may not be a household name to younger generations who don't remember a time before Google or the iPhone, the company is still one of the biggest players in online mapping. According to John Chipours, CEO of MapQuest, the website averages 20-30 million unique users per month, making it the third most trafficked mapping website behind Google Maps and Waze (owned by Google).
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There's a lot of very complex, not to mention proprietary, technology that makes up an online mapping service like MapQuest, but here's a quick overview.
The core technology of web-based mapping is a process called geocoding, in which the address of a location is converted to specific geographic coordinates (longitude and latitude). If a location is geocoded, it can be linked to an exact location on a web map.
The maps themselves are created by MapQuest using satellite imagery and road data purchased from other companies, such as Dutch location technology maker TomTom. Online maps consist of millions of pre-drawn "tiles" hosted on MapQuest's servers. You can zoom in on a single tile or zoom out to see hundreds of tiles covering the entire city. Each tile is a basic vector image that can be connected to other data such as businesses, restaurants or other points of interest.
MapQuest does not collect all of this location data itself. Instead, it works with dozens of data providers that specialize in gathering geocoding data for restaurants, gas stations, hotels and more.
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Of course, all these data-rich maps are only useful if users can easily navigate them. This is where the MapQuest search engine comes in. If a MapQuest user searches for "173 Hawkins Dr." or "coffee," the search engine searches MapQuest's database of addresses and locations to find the best match. Results are adjusted through anonymous feedback using search results selected by previous users to provide better options in the future.
Once the user has selected a location, it's time for the route engine to generate the fastest and most direct route to the destination. This requires a very complex algorithm that can juggle many variables at once: road types (single lane vs freeway), speed limits, stop lights, turns, real-time traffic data, road conditions. Closings and construction and more. All the data is crunched in a fraction of a second to calculate multiple routes, the estimated time of arrival for each route and the cost of fuel to get there.
Like other online map and direction services, MapQuest offers both a website (MapQuest.com) and a mobile app. Let's start with the website first.
MapQuest.com looks familiar to anyone who uses other online maps. At the top left of the screen is a prominent search bar where you can search for a location by name, address or keyword ("pizza"). Below the search bar are shortcut buttons that highlight nearby points of interest: hotels, food, shopping, coffee, groceries, and gas.
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Once you've selected a location, MapQuest.com provides at least two routes to your destination. Each route includes the following information: how long it will take to arrive on that route, current traffic conditions and "estimated fuel consumption". This last data point is unique to MapQuest.com and can be further customized by entering the make and model of your car.
But let's face it, how many people still look to a website for guidance? Since our smartphones have built-in GPS, most of us use mapping apps on our phones that provide turn-by-turn directions in real-time. MapQuest includes all the features of competing map apps plus some extras.
At the top of the MapQuest home screen are two icons: "Find Places" and "Get Directions." The main difference between the two search options is that "Find Places" gives you more information about the selected destination - hours, phone number, Yelp reviews - in addition to the "Directions" button. Direct instructions.
Like the website, the MapQuest app offers several route options for each route, along with distance, time, and traffic conditions, but the app does not include estimated fuel costs. The app fills this void with several other cool features. You can add a long, scrolling list of "layers" to the map that go beyond the hotels, gas stations, and grocery stores on the website. The app has shortcut buttons for bars, airports, banks, ice cream, schools, pharmacies, movies, hospitals and more.
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If you press the "Traffic" button, you can choose to view real-time traffic conditions, traffic accidents, and live traffic web cameras. Not every place has these stationary traffic cameras, but most cities do, and they can be a great way to keep an eye on highway traffic jams or busy intersections. Just click on the camera icons on the map and watch it. Another cool feature of the app is that it shows the local temperature in the lower right corner.
As a company, MapQuest makes money primarily in two ways: by selling ads that appear on the MapQuest.com website and by licensing its mapping technology to other companies through MapQuest for Business. MapQuest for Business currently has over 250,000 B2B (business-to-business) customers managing their own software and logistics.
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