The most successful map startup in history: ‘Ditching’ billions of users to Google Maps because of the word ‘greed’
- Tram Ho
At its peak, more than a decade ago, MapQuest, a trusted source for maps and driving directions, was one of the most popular websites in the world with around 50 million monthly active users. (a huge number in the mid-2000s).
However, in a short time, from being the most famous technology company in the world, MapQuest has gradually fallen into oblivion. One of the main reasons is that the executives didn’t consider the company’s historical background. Therefore, when making a decision about the direction of development, they only consider what makes the most sense at that time instead of thinking further about the future.
In an interview, Chris Heivly, one of the founders of MapQuest, shared the story of this “once-in-a-time” company.
MapQuest was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and was spun off from a $ 6 billion printing company. In 1994, a good employee said MapQuest would become popular and that they needed to split up so they wouldn’t be restrained by the parent company. So in 1995, Chris and his team split up and raised capital for MapQuest.
In other words, MapQuest, one of the first successful Internet startups in history, is not really a startup but part of the billion-dollar printing empire. By the time MapQuest was released, maps had become such an important part of society that tech companies made enormous profits by creating maps for people to use.
At the present time, almost no one uses MapQuest anymore. Instead, we use GPS for navigation. In 2008, Google launched a “Maps” application for the iPhone, giving millions of people extensive access to GPS navigation for the first time.
In MapQuest’s case, their navigation service is the transformation technology people need to transition from map-based navigation to GPS navigation.
Loss of vision and tens of millions of users
People like Chris understand that computers will change the way humans navigate, and they know GPS will play an important role in consumer navigation.
However, before developing MapQuest further and building that vision, in 1999 the owners sold MapQuest to AOL, the global Internet service provider.
AOL is not interested in anything other than making money. Instead of looking at the bigger historical picture, they focus only on profitability. Chris said: “With the huge amount of traffic, MapQuest for AOL is a chicken that lays nothing more and less gold. Once it became AOL’s second largest business unit. MapQuest won too long. ”
For AOL, investing in real-time navigation via GPS is meaningless because it will reduce the number of visits to the site and eat away short-term profits. Meanwhile, with a broader vision, another tech giant realized the potential of this field and decided to “jump” in. That company is Google.
Google Maps has been successful with over 1 billion monthly users globally.
At present, AOL’s market value is about $ 200 billion, but that number is far from over $ 1,000 billion of Google. That further clarifies the difference in the development strategy of the two technology giants.
Many users, especially young people today, are not even aware of the existence of MapQuest. The company says MapQuest currently has about 30 million monthly users, an extremely modest figure compared to Google Maps’ more than 1 billion monthly users.
“AOL would have avoided a catastrophic fate for MapQuest if its executives took the time to understand and evaluate the historical background of the map company it acquired in the year,” said an industry expert. 1999. With its successful foundation in place, if it had a broader vision, MapQuest could have reached billions of users today.
Source : Genk