Mapquest was once the leading map site in the world; they were bought by AOL as part of AOL’s decades’ long spree of buying successful companies and running them into the ground — finally, they were sold, and merged with Yahoo’s mangled acquisitions, to Verizon, to form a new, doomed division called “Oath” (because thinking about it made people swear).
Verizon has now dumped Mapquest to an ad-tech company called System1 for such a small sum it was “not material enough for Verizon to file paperwork.”
This is part of a string of lowball Verizon selloffs of their Oath companies: WordPress parent-company Automattic bought Tumblr in August for “less than $3 million” (actual price undisclosed; Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1b in 2013); in April 2018, Smugmug rescued Flickr from Verizon hell.
The whole ignominious tale is a perfect parable about market concentration and antitrust: AOL and Yahoo were allowed to make all these acquisitions because of Reagan-era reforms to antitrust enforcement, and it was a catastrophe for dozens of promising startups (though it certainly transferred a lot of money to Yahoo execs and shareholders). Then AOL and Yahoo sold those holdings to Verizon for $4.48b, and Verizon has since written down those assets by $4.45b (that is, more than 99%). They even lost Shingy.
Mapquest claims a (dubious) 38m monthly users. The company blamed its precipitous fall on getting downranked by Google, whose competing Google Maps product claims 154.4m monthly users. Google insists it downranked Mapquest results because no one clicked on them.
It’s clear that Google’s attempt to corner the whole online vertical was bad for its competitors, but it’s also obvious that AOL and Yahoo were the poster-child for diseconomies of scale, a place where good companies went to die, helmed by inverse King Midases who turned everything they touched to shit.
A eulogy for Mapquest [Greg Sterling/Search Engine Land]
(via Beyond the Beyond)
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