Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz will be remembered mainly as a cost cutter who outsourced numerous functions to third parties. A partial list of those includes outsourcing Search to Microsoft, Shopping to PriceGrabber, Real Estate to Zillow and Maps to Nokia/Navteq. And now, the new Nokia-powered Yahoo Maps (NokiHoo) have just gone live in the US and Canada: maps.yahoo.com; espanol.maps.yahoo.com; ca.maps.yahoo.com and qc.maps.yahoo.com.
NokiHoo maps are also available in other places around the world, such as Europe, but Yahoo doesn’t have the data or has incomplete data outside of the areas identified above. I did some searching in the UK around London and the data just aren’t there yet. In fairness to Yahoo they haven’t publicly announced areas outside the US and Canada.
When the NokiHoo deal was first announced in May of last year, I wrote that it would potentially improve Yahoo Maps and could open the door to Yahoo-branded mobile navigation or other map-based offerings. I assumed that it would make Yahoo Maps better and that the company might leverage a range of things that Nokia is doing, including Street View-like imagery.
In this initial relaunch none of that is in evidence. I’m generally not impressed.
Though this is only the first “iteration” and the maps cosmetically appear improved in certain ways, the addition of multiple search boxes creates complexity and potential errors. It’s also a step backward from the single maps search box used by Google, Mapquest, Bing — and even Nokia itself.
The “find a location” and “find a business” boxes are somewhat redundant. However if I use “find a location” (single search box vs. two for “find a business”) I get errors if the location isn’t obvious. Yahoo Maps uses IP targeting to set a default location.
You get almost an identical experience on Nokia Maps if you do the same searches. However I would argue the UI and general experience on Yahoo are better overall.
Nokia data is also going to take on a larger role over at Bing Maps as well, as part of the partnership agreement between Nokia and Microsoft. Nokia and subsidiary Navteq are the clear beneficiaries of these deals and may ultimately be able to claim Yahoo (and maybe Bing Maps) as part of the company’s local-mobile ad network. But that remains to be determined.
While there are multiple improvements or enhancements on the new Yahoo Maps “under the hood” (e.g., better routing) there’s nothing in the UI/UX to cause people to choose them over Google Maps. That’s the bottom line.