We like that Yahoo helps you find a location and things to do while you're there, thanks to its directories of businesses, community services, and transportation sources. Need a car mechanic near work? In our search, first we located CNET's office on the map. Then within the left pane of Yahoo Maps, we clicked Browse By Category and found "Auto repair and service." In a few seconds, Yahoo pinpointed the locations of 25 mechanics around downtown San Francisco. You can click a spot for details and driving directions or to rate the location for Yahoo Local. A similar search within Google Maps, which lacks the by-subject local directory links, found just a handful of auto shops.
Still, we'd like to see the Yahoo Maps beta improve a few things. For instance, Yahoo wouldn't remember addresses we'd used before, even when we marked one as our default location. The option to e-mail a map is handy, but it sends only a Web link to a map, not an image or directions. The send-to-phone feature likewise sends a text message containing a link that works only on WAP-enabled phones. Yahoo's live traffic feature, lacking within Google Maps, displays possible trouble spots but doesn't explain the length of a delay or how far traffic is backed up. We'd also like Yahoo Maps to offer the advanced routing options found on Mapquest, which help users avoid tolls or highways. Within our tests in Firefox and Internet Explorer, Yahoo Maps stalled several times, failing to communicate with its servers.
Like Google Maps and now Mapquest, Yahoo offers an open code so that developers can mix up its maps with third-party data. By the looks of the results in this gallery, people are already making impressive mashups, such as charting New York subway stops, Bay Area sneaker shops, and soccer fields in Phoenix.
As the Yahoo Maps beta is unfinished, it doesn't offer much in the way of tech support. You can click Help from the bottom of the page for FAQs and explanations of features. These pages are useful for basic tasks, but there's no way to ask a Yahoo expert a question. Rather than getting help, Yahoo wants you to provide it: use the Send Us Feedback link at the bottom of the page to suggest a feature or point out any problems.
Yahoo Maps combines the ease and fun of the groundbreaking Google Maps with Yahoo's excellent local content. While Google's bird's-eye views are closer than Yahoo's, we find the Yahoo Maps beta more convenient for finding directions with multiple stops, tracking traffic pitfalls, and linking to nearby stores and services.
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