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MapQuest and Other Web Zombies


The dream of the Nineteen Nineties web continues to be alive, in the event you look in the precise corners.

Greater than 17 million Americans commonly use MapQuest, one in all the primary digital mapping web sites that was way back overtaken by Google and Apple, based on data from the research firm Comscore. The dot-com-era web portal Go.com shut down 20 years ago, but its ghost lives on within the “Go” that’s a part of web addresses for some Disney sites.

Ask Jeeves, an internet search engine that began before Google, still has fans and folks typing “Ask Jeeves a matter” into Google searches.

Perhaps you scoff at AOL, nevertheless it continues to be the fiftieth hottest website within the U.S., based on figures from SimilarWeb. The early 2000s virtual world Second Life never went away and is now having a second life as a proto-metaverse brand.

Some onetime online stars have stuck around far longer than we may need expected, showing that it’s possible to carve out a life online long after stardom fades.

“These are almost cockroach brands,” said Ben Schott, a brand and promoting columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. “They’re sufficiently small and resilient enough that they’ll’t be killed.”

A comparison to scurrying bugs may not appear to be a compliment. But there’s something heartwarming about pioneers that shaped the early web, lost their cool and dominance, and eventually carved out a distinct segment. They’ll never be as popular or powerful as they were a generation ago, but musty web brands might still have a fruitful purpose.

These brands have managed to remain alive through a mix of inertia, nostalgia, the actual fact they’ve produced a product that folks like, digital moneymaking prowess and oddities of the rickety web. If today’s web powers like Facebook and Pinterest lose relevance, too, they might stick around for a long time.

System1, which owns MapQuest and HowStuffWorks amongst other web sites, has a technique to attract people to its collection of digital properties through promoting pitches or other techniques, turn them into loyal users and generate income from their clicks or other sales. It’s not far off the early 2000s web strategy of turning “eyeballs” into revenue.

Michael Mix, the chief executive officer and co-founder of System1, said that his company spent money on web advertisements to lure people to MapQuest and likewise improved its mapping functions. One feature added since System1 bought MapQuest from Verizon in 2019 lets delivery couriers plot long routes with many stops.

Mix said that Gen X nostalgia or internet marketing might persuade people to try MapQuest a couple of times, but that the corporate desired to make the positioning useful enough that they keep coming back commonly. He also said that greater than half of individuals using MapQuest are young enough that they could never have known it in its heyday.

Mix is proud that MapQuest has stuck around so long as it has. “There are many web brands which have come and gone and also you never hear from them again,” he told me.

I don’t have an excellent explanation for the resilience of some Nineteen Nineties web properties. Individuals are looking for Ask Jeeves regardless that its owner, the web conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, gave up the English butler name in 2005 and quit attempting to compete with Google search greater than a decade ago. The web site now called Ask.com is generally a compilation of entertainment and celebrity news.

A spokesman for Disney, which used to own the Go.com web portal, didn’t have a solid explanation for why a number of the company’s websites still have fingerprints of Go. (The Onion years ago mocked Disney for this.) Generally, today’s web sites are sometimes built on top of remnants of the old web like a contemporary mansion erected on the inspiration of a Nineteenth-century home.

Schott mentioned something that I can’t get out of my head. He said that when a once-loved restaurant chain or industrial factory shuts down, the everyday public response is sadness for what people have lost. But Schott said that when web properties like Yahoo and Myspace sag or die, it’s often brushed off as a joke.

“There may be a weird schadenfreude when tech corporations fail that I don’t think happens to other industries,” he said. “I’m unsure what that’s about.”

Perhaps that’s starting to alter. When Microsoft retired its 27-year-old Web Explorer web browser this month, the nostalgia poured out. As the web ages — and so do those of us who remember its early years — the more we’d feel stirrings of emotion for what got here before.

  • China’s eyes on its residents: An investigation from The Recent York Times found that surveillance by Chinese authorities is more extensive than was previously understood. The police want facial-recognition cameras where people eat and shop and even in private spaces like residential buildings and hotels. The authorities are buying equipment to construct large-scale databases of iris scans and DNA. The goal, my colleagues reported, is to “maximize what the state can discover a few person’s identity, activities and social connections, which could ultimately help the federal government maintain its authoritarian rule.”

    Watch the video investigation here.

  • Complaints a few bait and switch: Small business owners say that Google got them hooked on the corporate’s free customized email and other workplace software and now could be requiring payment in a process they found ham-handed. “It struck me as needlessly petty,” one business owner told my colleague Nico Grant.

  • Other automobile corporations have Tesla envy: Established auto manufacturers like Ford need to sell more of their cars on to buyers online, as Tesla does. One problem: Laws in lots of states require cars to be sold through dealerships, Paul Stenquist writes for The Times.


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