MapQuest and other internet zombies

The dream of the internet from the 1990s is still alive if you look in the right angles.

More than 17 million Americans regularly use MapQuest, one of the first digital map websites that was taken over by Google and Apple long ago, according to research firm Comscore. Dot-com-era Internet portal closed 20 years ago, but its ghost lives on in Go, which part of web addresses for some Disney Sites.

Ask Jeeves, the web search engine that predated Google, still has fans and people who type “Ask Jeeves a Question” into Google searches.

You may be mocking AOL, but according to SimilarWeb, it still ranks as the 50th most popular website in the US. The virtual world of the early 2000s Second Life never disappeared and now have a second life as a brand of the proto-metaverse.

Some former online stars have lingered here much longer than we might expect, showing that it’s possible to live an online life long after the fame has faded.

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

Comparison with scurrying beetles cannot seem be a compliment. But there is something touching about the pioneers who shaped the early Internet, lost their cool and dominance, and eventually carved their own niche. They will never be as popular and influential as they were a generation ago, but musty internet brands can still have a fruitful purpose.

These brands have managed to survive thanks to a combination of inertia, nostalgia, the fact that they have produced a product that people love, digital moneymaking prowess, and the oddities of a shaky internet. If today’s internet powers like Facebook and Pinterest also become irrelevant, they could remain for decades.

System1, which owns MapQuest and HowStuffWorks among other websites, has a strategy to attract people to its collection of digital property through promotional offers or other methods, turning them into loyal users and earning money from their clicks or other sales. This is not far from the web strategy of the early 2000s to turn “eyeballs” into income.

Michael Blend, CEO and co-founder of System1, said his company spent money on online advertising to get people to MapQuest and also improved its mapping features. One feature added after System1 bought MapQuest from Verizon in 2019 allows couriers to lay long routes with many stops.

Blend said Gen X nostalgia or online marketing might convince people to try MapQuest once or twice, but the company wanted to make the site useful enough that they keep coming back regularly. He also said that more than half of the people who use MapQuest are young enough to never know about it in its heyday.

Blend is proud that MapQuest has been around for so long. “There are a lot of internet brands that have come and gone that you will never hear from again,” he told me.

I don’t have a good explanation for the resilience of some Internet resources in the 1990s. People are looking for Ask Jeeves despite the fact that its owner, Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, retired as English butler in 2005. as well as stop trying to compete with google search over ten years ago. The website, now called, is primarily a collection of entertainment and celebrity news.

A spokesperson for Disney, which formerly owned, was unable to explain why some of the company’s websites still had traces of Go. (Bow many years ago mocked Disney for it.) As a rule, modern websites are often built on the remnants of the old Internet, like a modern mansion built on the foundations of a 19th century house.

Schott mentioned something that I can’t get out of my head. He said that when a once-beloved restaurant chain or industry closes, a typical public reaction is sadness over what people have lost. But Schott said that when Internet resources like Yahoo and Myspace sag or die, it’s often taken as a joke.

“There is a strange gloating when technology companies fail, which I don’t think happens in other industries,” he said. “I’m not sure what it’s about.”

Maybe this is starting to change. When Microsoft ended support for its 27-year-old Internet Explorer web browser this month, nostalgia burst out. As the internet ages, and those of us who remember its early years grow older, we may feel more emotional about what used to be.

  • China looks at its citizens: An the study from The New York Times found that surveillance by the Chinese authorities is wider than previously thought. Police need facial recognition cameras where people eat and shop, and even in private spaces like residences and hotels. The authorities are buying equipment to create large-scale databases of iris scans and DNA. The goal, as my colleagues have reported, is “to maximize what the state can learn about an individual’s personality, activities, and social connections, which could ultimately help the government maintain authoritarian rule.”

    Watch the video of the investigation here.

  • Bait and arrow complaints: Small business owners to tell that Google got them hooked on the company’s free personalized email and other workplace software and now requires payment in a process they found clumsy. “It struck me as too petty,” one business owner told my colleague Nico Grant.

  • Other car companies are jealous of Tesla: Notable car manufacturers such as Ford want to sell more of their cars directly to online buyerslike Tesla does. One problem: Many state laws require cars to be sold through dealerships, writes Paul Stenquist for The Times.


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