AOL’s MapQuest remains the top brand in online mapping and is still the most visited mapping site, despite recent gains by Google Maps. However, as the “incumbent” MapQuest has been somewhat resistant to experimentation and slower to adopt new features. But this morning the site is launching what promises to be the first of many changes in the coming months that will make it more dynamic, more visually interesting and content rich.
When you go to MapQuest.com, you see the existing site with a link to the new “Beta” site. Here’s “MapQuest classic“:
And here’s the new MapQuest Beta:
The most obvious difference is the prominent placement of a map on the new beta homepage. Other differences include the ability to cut and paste addresses into a “single box” vs. entering address details into various, separate fields (which can still be done):
Product VP Mark Law stressed to me that there would be many more changes in the coming months, but that MapQuest was going to phase them in so as not to disorient its user base. More personalization is coming, for example.
AOL sees MapQuest as the most visible and highly trafficked “front door” to many types of local content on its network, e.g., City’s Best (formerly AOL Cityguide). The five modules or boxes at the bottom of the new home page, which will rotate, offer entry points or visibility for that content:
Favorite features that were somewhat buried in the “classic” MapQuest were gas prices and traffic, which are now available on the homepage:
Default locations and recent searches are also stored on the site. At the bottom of the map, are branded ad units:
This is something Yahoo has as well:
Google also offers branded ads on the map in slightly different form. However MapQuest’s Mark Law and I discussed a range of interesting possibilities associated with how these units might develop over time (e.g., a gallery of widgets). Overall these are positive changes that will likely boost MapQuest, especially if more interesting features continue to roll out as promised.
This MapQuest blog post also provides discussion of the new MapQuest Beta features.