Online mapping pioneer MapQuest released a feature to customize driving directions by dragging the route. Google Maps, the relative upstart that continues to lead with its snazzy tool, published a similar feature over sixteen months ago.
You’ve got to feel for MapQuest, who first brought driving directions to the web in 1996, two years before Google was even founded. Remarkably, MapQuest is still the leader in online mapping, but it saw its market share recently shrink below 50%.
Google changed online mapping when it jumped into the scene in 2005 using Ajax to create a draggable map and non-refresh zooming. MapQuest seems to have struggled more than other mapping tools not just to innovate, but to even keep up. Several months after Google Maps was released, MapQuest released an Ajax-enabled map, though it still required what now seem like old timey buttons to choose the direction to move the map.
This latest feature also feels like a lesser copy. The map is resource-intensive and all the way at the bottom of the driving directions screen. Dragging the route feels clunky. Once I released my new route, it disappears, only to turn a second or two later.
There is a silver lining in this new MapQuest feature. The company is not sitting still and is working on its feature-set, even if it is mostly copying its competitors. Hopefully the pioneer of online mapping will find some time to remove the arrows from its back and bring us something as revolutionary as it did in 1996, or Google did in 2005.