MapQuest was once the unquestioned leader among online mapping services. And while others like Google Maps or Microsoft's Live Search Maps offer a more modern interface and far more features than MapQuest, the latest data from Hitwise shows that MapQuest still commands almost 40% of the market. Even on the fast-moving Internet, old habits clearly only die very slowly.

Google Got Close

According to Hitwise's Heather Hopkings, Google came very close to catching up with MapQuest in December, but somehow, MapQuest managed to gain some ground again in January. Currently, MapQuest holds 39.49% of the market share in the US and Google Maps is at 35.67%.

Update: Hitwise just supplied us with a new graph that includes data for Live Maps and Yahoo Maps.

What is even more interesting, though, is that most of MapQuest's traffic comes from 'brand searches' - that is users who specifically search for 'mapquest.' Eight out of the top ten search terms leading to MapQuest were variations of its brand name and they accounted for 62% of MapQuests' visitors. For Google Maps, only two out of the top ten search terms were branded and they only accounted for 4.2% of Google Maps' traffic.

Old Habits

It is quite amazing how MapQuest manages to hang on to its top position. Google Maps gets over 60% of its traffic from Google itself, yet it seems that using MapQuest, even though it is barely keeping up with the latest technological advancements on the Internet, is still synonymous with online mapping for a majority of Internet users.

In many ways, this means that a service like Microsoft's Live Maps, which is holding on to a very distant third fourth place, is fighting an uphill battle, even though it provides a number of features like its Birds Eye View that even Google Maps doesn't have. For a lot of mainstream users, however, having access to the latest features doesn't necessarily translate into a reason to switch away from an established service.