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.

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