Verizon’s MapQuest Goes Mobile to Compete With Google, Apple Maps

MapQuest is still a thing? MapQuest is still a thing.

The company that first introduced the world to turn-by-turn directions in the late ‘90s and early aughts is still around and getting people where they need to go, despite maintaining a quiet presence, well, just about everywhere.

“’Is MapQuest still around?’ We hear that quite a bit,” said Leila Qualheim, MapQuest’s director of communications. “We are around and we’ve been here for a long time… We’ve just changed and iterated over the years.”

The Denver-based company announced its latest incarnation, one centered on luring millennial users to its refurbished mobile application, on Tuesday in an effort to reclaim its position as a leading digital mapping authority—and to combat the magnetism attached to its lingering nemesis and industry heavyweight, Google Maps.

“For those who had forgotten about us, we’ve built a great new experience and we are asking them to come back,” Brian McMahon, MapQuest’s senior vice president and general manager, said in a statement.

Specifically, the company has launched a new logo, overhauled its website, and enhanced its mobile capabilities with the intension of keeping users within its app at all times instead of bouncing between different programs. To solidify that one-stop-shop experience, MapQuest has doubled down on interactivity by partnering with dozens of mobile-heavy outfits including Yelp, OpenTable, Uber, and Car2Go.

“We knew the way that people were using maps was really changing, that they were being commoditized, and that people are really looking for more than just utility,” Qualheim said. “There are so many ways to get from point A to point B nowadays, so rather than expecting users to juggle multiple applications, we’ve kind of put it all onto one screen.”

She added that the rebranding effort has taken place over the course of about 18 months.

In Denver, users of the new MapQuest interface are now able to compare public transit travel options, as the result of a partnership with the Regional Transportation District. Other cities will have the public transit comparison feature soon, according to Kacy Beitel, MapQuest’s head of consumer products, but the process becomes thorny when working with cities that boast several transit agencies.

“We’ll be adding additional cities in the coming weeks and months,” Beitel said. “As we get into bigger cities like L.A. and New York it gets a little more difficult…and we’re really working to ensure that we’re able to show everything that’s available and not just a portion of it.”

MapQuest typically flip-flops with Apple Maps for the number two and three spots on the list of most-used mapping interfaces, according to Beitel, who said that MapQuest still attracts 40-42 million monthly users. Google Maps has firmly held onto the number one spot in terms of monthly active users since its launch in 2005.

The new MapQuest services do not include the 3D views offered by Google Maps and Apple Maps. They do not offer anything similar to Google’s street view capability, and have yet to incorporate directions via bike, according to a MapQuest-provided graphic. The new brand does include a customer support line that is on-hand during normal business hours to guide lost travelers to their desired destinations, according to Beitel.

MapQuest first launched as a Web service in 1996 and morphed into an early Internet supernova after AOL purchased the company three years later for $1.1 billion. The company is now controlled by Verizon, which acquired AOL in May for $4.4 billion.

With slightly more than 100 employees working at its Denver headquarters, Qualheim said, the company is currently seeking to expand and fill several different positions.

“We have quite a few open jobs at this point,” she said.

Quincy Snowdon is a staff writer with the Aurora Sentinel, reporting on the arts, entertainment and business. He lives in Denver. Follow @QuincySnowdon

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