Buzzin' 'round the net
originally published August 18, 1999 on
copyright 1999 by Joe Harkins - all rights reserved
    If you want to know why it's called the World Wide Web or the 'Net, you might consider those users who start out as eager as a bee in a flower garden but wind up as hopelessly stuck as a housefly on sticky-paper. Cyberspace travel need’t be frustrating. Hop up here behind me on my modem and we'll vroom around looking at ways to plan a car trip.

    CyberAtlas ( by DeLorme offers attractive maps but if the samples I looked at are typical, use them with caution. For example, the boulevard on which I live, the main thoroughfare of a large, busy city, is shown but not named. Also, various landmarks incorrectly located, one of them the region’s major public transportation hub. Driving directions to a suburb suggested a route that only a Manhattan cab-driver might love. The proposed way involved many 20 mile-per-hour city streets through a dozen downtowns, while ignoring a zippy, generally wide-open, parallel highway.

    If you need a map for installation on your own your web site or to print out, MapBlast ( might be your first choice. Label your map’s key points (e.g.: "our house" or "Aunt Sally’s") and customize them with icons (a star, stop sign, etc.). The locator is versatile, automatically correcting misspelled addresses and allowing searches by closest intersection. Also, the addition of maps of European cities is a welcome bonus. Still, Map Blast’s urban routing, with unnecessary twists and turns, is not as efficient as it might be.

    The MapQuest ( combination of routing and maps is the best of the bunch. You may display or print a variety of versions, including the highly practical Automobile Association of America "strip map" which places the destination at the top. I find that less confusing than a traditional folding road map which I occasionally must read upside down or while standing on my head.

    That doesn’t exhaust the list of online map and driving directions services. The list of those worth your hour-glass hang-time has improved since we reported on this category more than  a year ago.

    There’s Etak, ( "the world’s leading provider of digital maps." It wasn't too long ago that the web site of this Sony subsidiary was sorry mess based upon an uninformative, generically-labeled menu and long-scrolling pages of screen-wide text extolling the company’s size and achievements. That's been fixed. The range of products has been greatly expanded to include Palm Pilot compatibles and a variety of GPS tools.

    Etak's maps always have been among the best on the Internet and the redesigned web site justifies their use. One clever feature lets you search by zip code or city name or even longitude and latitude, zoom in to 1/10th of a mile scale (city blocks are often longer), then click at any point on the map to discover the address at that location.

    A window into the exact same map data supported with accurate routing is MapsOnUs ( The interface is easily easy on the eyes and the insfrastructure deserves appaluse for its careful attenetion to consumer support. You can even create an address book with your home and work addresses, plus your favorite restaurants, stores, parks, museums, and more!