Never Ask for Directions Again

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MapQuest: Web Pioneer

For a number of years, MapQuest virtually owned Web mapping. It's so popular that it has verb status, as in "I mapquested it."

The site has the cold competence of a bank clerk. No maps grace the opening screen; instead, it presents you with one simple text box for finding a place or service, and another for entering the start and end addresses for directions.

In my tests, MapQuest found all the local Starbucks locations but not Peet's Coffee. Still, it has more search options--including search-area radius, cities, and categories--than does Google Local. MapQuest also lets you send maps and directions to your mobile phone, following a fairly painless initial setup; this service costs $4 per month, but that's cheap insurance when you're on the road.

MapQuest did the best job of the four sites when I searched for airports around New York, though the results were more scattershot than I would have liked, including businesses as well as airports. In my local streets and highways test, it selected the correct route. The site uses a browser cookie to save recent searches.

Bottom line: It lacks its rivals' fancy features, but MapQuest delivers the goods in terms of basic mapping and directions.

At a Glance
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