Don't Look Now, But MapQuest Might Be Great

Adam DuVander
Oct. 29 2009, 02:21AM EDT

MapQuest continues to add services to its developer network. Have they caught up with the geo-tools available from Google and Yahoo?

Most recently the mapping pioneer released a geocoding web service and static maps. In fact, many recent posts on its developer blog have included multiple announcements, testament to how much the company has been releasing.

The geocoding web service converts addresses to latitude and longitude points, an important step to create maps on your website. MapQuest (our MapQuest API profile) uses a REST interface, rather than only making the geocoder available via JavaScript (a service it also has). That means that developers can geocode from the server, a mobile application, or anywhere else. Google and Yahoo also have both web services and JavaScript versions of their geocoders.

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Static maps provide developers with an image of a map, rather than a fully interactive interface. MapQuest joins Google as the only two providers to have a static option. In fact, the search giant recently upgraded its static maps API to be able to display lines (often used to show directions). MapQuest's features are similar to Google's new version.

Plus, MapQuest provides pre-generated static maps for each step of directions. This bit of mappery combines the new static API with its innovative directions web service. When it comes to providing full access to directions data, MapQuest still stands alone.

There are other ways that Google and Yahoo have a lead over MapQuest as a platform. Google is the most popular, of course, and has Street View. No other service is likely to even attempt to take 360 degree photos of every street. Yahoo has several services to help with geocoding, such as Placemaker (our Placemaker API profile).

MapQuest, which lead the way for years for online directions, is now showing its might through its developer network. It is doing a bit of leading and a lot less following. It's now a platform worth considering, right along with Google and Yahoo.

Adam DuVander Hi! I'm Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and former Executive Editor of ProgrammableWeb. I currently serve as a Contributing Editor. If you have API news, or are interested in writing for ProgrammableWeb, please contact editor@programmableweb.com Though I'm a fan of anything API-related, my particular interest is in mapping. I've published a how-to book, Map Scripting 101, to get anyone started making maps on websites. In a not-so-distant past life I wrote for Wired and Webmonkey.

Comments

Comments(4)

I love MapQuest for it's offerings, but the accuracy of its geocoder leaves a lot to be desired. I ran a test in late July with 10k random addresses across the US to determine the quality of Google vs Yahoo! vs MapQuest. If Google were the baseline, Yahoo! was off by an average of 240ft and MapQuest was off by an average of 710ft. I used 270,000 ft = 1 degree (didn't feel like doing great circle) AND only factored in geocodes where the absolute value of the latitude / longitude was w/in 1/10 of a degree (WAY off without that), so the averages aren't necessarily 100% representative in terms of average distance. Still though, I think the results are significant.

kim

We used to use MapQuest for a field job and it was good way back when.This is good to know and always good to have choices and various options.