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MapQuest and Other Internet Zombies

MapQuest and Other Internet Zombies

The dream of the 1990s internet is still alive, if you look in the right corners.

More than 17 million Americans regularly use MapQuest, one of the first digital mapping websites that was long ago overtaken by Google and Apple, according to data from the research firm Comscore. The dot-com-era internet portal Go.com shut down 20 years ago, but its ghost lives on in the “Go” that’s part of web addresses for some Disney sites.

Ask Jeeves, a web search engine that started before Google, still has fans and people typing “Ask Jeeves a question” into Google searches.

Maybe you scoff at AOL, but it is still the 50th most popular website in the U.S., according to figures from SimilarWeb. The early 2000s virtual world Second Life never went away and is now having a second life as a proto-metaverse brand.

Some onetime online stars have stuck around far longer than we might have expected, showing that it’s possible to carve out a life online long after stardom fades.

“These are almost cockroach brands,” said Ben Schott, a brand and advertising columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. “They’re small enough and resilient enough that they can’t be killed.”

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A comparison to scurrying bugs may not seem to be a compliment. But there is something heartwarming about pioneers that shaped the early internet, lost their cool and dominance, and eventually carved out a niche. They’ll never be as popular or powerful as they were a generation ago, but musty internet brands might still have a fruitful purpose.

These brands have managed to stay alive through a combination of inertia, nostalgia, the fact they’ve produced a product that people like, digital moneymaking prowess and oddities of the rickety internet. If today’s internet powers like Facebook and Pinterest lose…

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