These days it’s hard to remember that at one time Yahoo was the pioneer in dynamic mapping. It introduced enhanced local search features and capabilities into the map before Google, Microsoft and MapQuest. At a certain point, however, Yahoo opted out of the map feature wars that erupted between Google and Microsoft (StreetView, 3D, aerial, UGC). Since that time there have been a range of incremental improvements for Yahoo Maps.
Accordingly the company said that it has given Yahoo Maps a “face lift” in the UK, and in France. There are a range of improvements discussed. While these ongoing improvements are critical and help boost quality, the larger question in my mind is how committed is Yahoo to its mapping product and to Yahoo Local more broadly?
While Yahoo Maps remains a solid product, absent ongoing effort and investment, it will continue to lose share and fade. MapQuest’s complacency until recently is one of the factors that allowed Google to overtake it. The chart below shows a relatively stable market share for Yahoo Maps, albeit one that is on a gradual downward trend.
Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz has said that the company is increasingly focused on local. Indeed, Yahoo Local was similarly a market-leading product that has lost some luster and traction, amid the many reorgs, and now seems to be in maintenance mode. Given Yahoo’s focus on Mobile and its parallel effort to move from a “web of pages to a web of objects” in search, the company should see its local and mapping assets as strategic in that broader context.
I agree with Bartz that it’s critical for Yahoo to get its managerial house in order. But now, as that objective seems to be nearing an end, the company should refocus on its products. And with Bing seeming to gain some momentum, Yahoo cannot take user loyalty for granted.