Why do we still “Mapquest” directions?

January 3, 2008

Last month I wrote briefly about how “facebook” has become a verb. “To facebook someone” is equivalent of saying “to look up someone’s profile on Facebook.com.” This makes sense. To “google” is to perform an internet search (never mind that Google has its fingers in pretty much every business and software known to man). To “tweet” is to send out a message using Twitter (I really like this one–but it didn’t evolve naturally, like the others).

Recently I asked a hotel receptionist, about my age, for directions. She said, “Hold on, I’ll Mapquest them for you.” I got a printout from Google Maps.

Why do some words become commonplace and others don’t? I thought, since Mapquest was arguably the first working online map service (though once, many years ago, I requested directions to the mall and ended up on the other side of town in a residential neighborhood), its status as a pioneer made it an easy choice to describe the act of looking up directions on the Internet. But no, does anyone say “Let me Youtube this video” or “I Youtubed for hours last night”? And Youtube is arguably the best-known video site out there.

The word “Mapquest” is a syllable shorter than “Google Maps,” but again, there are lots of short ways to say “perform an Internet search for directions.” How about “I’ll map this in a second” or “I’ll get a map”?

So what gives?  Anyone tracking this, or have theories?

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