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Yahoo hopes revamped maps translate to traffic

By helping motorists better navigate the streets, Yahoo Inc. hopes to drum up more traffic of its own. The Internet giant is using the might of its vast online network and several innovative features in a bid to dethrone the king of Internet-based maps and driving directions, America Online Inc.’s MapQuest.

That will require overcoming stubborn brand loyalties among those who look for maps on the Web. Yahoo hopes to do it using digital maps, overlaying information such as real-time traffic data — a service it introduced last month — and local business listings. advertisement

Perhaps more important, Yahoo hopes to cash in on local advertising. Web sites that link local businesses to maps have an advantage over traditional media, such as newspapers and the Yellow Pages, when it comes to finding banks, restaurants and other services in a particular place. And users who create maps are telling Yahoo exactly where they’re going, which is attractive to marketers.

Maps and driving directions have become one of the most heavily used services on the Internet since MapQuest.com burst onto the scene in 1996. Acquired for about $1 billion in 2000 by America Online, now part of Time Warner Inc., MapQuest remains at the top of the heap. But it has plenty of competition: Microsoft Corp. offers an online mapping service, and Yahoo dumped MapQuest’s technology in favor of its own three years ago.