AOL Bings Mapquest?

AOL struggles

So it seems that AOL is going under a lot of downsizing! The once leader in Internet connectivity is now struggling to prevent its legs from shattering under the weight of the products it manages.

Yesterday, Kara Swisher from All Things Digital wrote a post mentioning that AOL is probably trying to get rid of Mapquest (as well as Bebo), and that it could be a great opportunity for Microsoft to buy it and kill Google Maps’ domination in the process:

Purchasers of the service that provides mapping and directions, sources said, are likely to be other mapping giants, especially Microsoft (MSFT).

But it is not clear if the software giant or anyone would fork over a huge sum of money for MapQuest.

That would include the $1.1 billion in stock that AOL paid for MapQuest in 1999.

If you do the maths, it is a great opportunity for Microsoft: According to Quantcast, Google Maps gets 42 million visits in the US monthly, Mapquest gets 38 million, and Bing Maps get 30 K. So if Microsoft can put $1 billion just for market shares, then it could easily jump the vault and start to tickle Google’s heels.

I found this perspective on Mapquest through Francois Lardinois’ Twitter stream saying he wasn’t buying the rumor. I admit I was having a hard time buying it too, so I asked Kara Swisher: if AOL sells mapquest and bebo, what would they have left to focus on?, and she simply replied: Content!

Fair enough. However, I agree more with Greg Sterling when he says:

It strikes me however that a company seeking to be a force in local or that sees local as a “key strategic area” is probably making a pretty significant mistake selling the top online mapping brand and the number two destination in maps.

What do you think? Would AOL drop Mapquest? Would Microsoft pay a billion bucks for it? And mostly what would Microsoft do with Mapquest?

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