RealTime IT News

Yahoo! to MapQuest: Get Lost

First Microsoft enters the mapping business to compete directly with AOL Time Warner's MapQuest, and now Internet portal operation Yahoo! is deep-sixing the map service in favor of a creation of its own.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! Inc. said it is launching a brand new Yahoo! Maps platform using a custom-built technology solution from map database providers Navigation Technologies and Geographic Data Technology, and software companies Telcontar and Sagent Technology .

"The new Yahoo! Maps offers users reliable online maps and personalized driving directions for travel and everyday activities," said Elizabeth Blair, senior vice president of Yahoo!'s Listings division. The company says people who use the map service are not likely to notice much difference.

And no doubt it's costing the company less money. Not only has Yahoo! been on a drive to diversify its revenue stream, but also it is paying attention to the cost side.

"Maps is a core technology to Yahoo!," Andrew Braccia, director of business development for the Yahoo! Listings division, told InternetNews.com. "It's a technology that is leveraged in 20 or so different properties across the Yahoo! network, and we wanted to have more control of the property and the business ... wanted to go to the vendors of the solution ... and work with them directly instead of through an intermediary."

Yahoo's new mapping platform has the same user interface as the former system and incorporates accurate and up-to-date geographical data for locations in the United States and Canada, the company said.

Braccia didn't specify Yahoo!'s plans for the new version of the software, but he didn't rule out the eventual expansion of advertising options in Yahoo! Maps, which also powers portions of Yahoo!'s yellow pages, real estate, job listings and autos areas. Currently, the site includes links to and locations for advertisers including Hyatt, State Farm Insurance and 7-Eleven.

Yahoo! denied suggestions by a number of analysts that it may have dropped AOL after being unable to agree on licensing terms, according to published reports. Yahoo has offered MapQuest on its site for the past four years, however terms of its licensing deal with AOL have never been disclosed.

The year is not off to the best of starts for AOL Time Warner's MapQuest, which launched back in 1996 and traces its roots back to the 1960s as a gas station map provider. Still, MapQuest has more than 1,400 business partners and an AOL spokesman was quoted as saying it does not expect the loss of Yahoo as a partner to have a significant impact on the business.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. said its new MSN MapPoint offering is built on the .NET platform "and represents the beginning of MapPoint technology's migration to Microsoft .NET Web Services."

InternetNews.com's Chris Saunders contributed to this report.