Last week MapQuest (owned by AOL's Huffington Post division) launched the beta version of its social network (press release). Here's what it does per the AP (as reported on HuffPo, just to be "meta"):
The company says mqVibe uses algorithms to produce real-time rankings of 50,000 neighborhoods in 27,000 U.S. cities. It also lists the best-ranked places for dining, shopping, beauty and spas, health, lodging and other services.
Rankings are based on user votes and what the company describes as interactions on MapQuest.com and external data.
That's not exactly what I gleaned from early peaks into the network, but clearly MapQuest wants to tap into the human need to list and rank things and places. I note with some irony how rankings are somehow related to "interactions" on the site itself. Does that mean if you want to rank your site higher, you better get on MapQuest?
Glenn Letham at GISUser desribes the network as "much anticipated " He explored the beta and "so far I'm very impressed!" He likes the Facebook integration (you sign in via Facebook Connect) and that visitors can select areas by neighborhood (my first thought: who's neighborhood data are they using?). Once you find places of interest, you can give them "thumbs up" or "down" and leave a comment. And, then comes the social part: the ability to share the comment with Facebook friends organized by geography! Those in the area are at the top of the list for sharing. He points to an area for improvement: adding a new business not yet in the rankings.
Greg Serling at Search Engine Watch writes "Conceptually I like what MapQuest is doing although the first “iteration” isn’t necessarily going to win a lot of converts from Google Maps." Sterlings like the UI, maps and images of the neighborhoods and the browsing focus rather than a search one (that's yet to come). He notes that unlike other hyperlocal efforts (including EveryBlock) MapQuest doesn't really need a business model save driving traffic to/from its other properties. " MapQuest also expects neighborhood-related queries on Google to generate direct traffic as well. MapQuest will also leverage Patch as a content source and potentially integrate MQ Vibe into Patch sites in the future. There are many interesting possibilities."
Programmable Web notes that the API is not yet formally available, but it's there. There are already developers using it!
All the other coverage I read simply rehashed what MapQuest said in its press release or on the website. I read about 20 articles on it. I found exaclty one comment. Twitter has been rather quiet, too.