_While browsing the USA Today’s travel section I came across an article that introduced a new product by MapQuest that I had never heard of and of course had to look into. The program is called MapQuest Vibe and is designed to introduce a place or neighborhood from a new point of view. When you enter the site you are prompted to enter a town; I first entered my own hometown and was amazed by the amount of information that was dug up on my one square mile town including an excerpt from Wikipedia. The site presents restaurants/bars, shopping, activities, local services, beauty/spa, heath/med., and lodging/travel as separate categories that pinpoint each point of interest on a map and rank the establishments by how “hip” they are. Users are encouraged to rate places they know to help keep up with “what’s hot” and “what’s not.” Each place is offered with a short description and occasional photo; only sometimes is more information available. Because the program is still fairly new, it does yet hold as much detailed information on each location as it could. I then searched a Best Weekends’ favorite, New Hope, PA, I was shown 30 restaurants. Zoubi (one of our highest rated New Hope dining locations) was ranked second on the list just below El Taco Loco.        
In comparison, Google offers a similarly designed and longer established Google Places. Google Places runs on a purely user-built database. Business owners and town residents are encouraged to enter descriptions and locations of their favorite places. The locations of points of interest are not categorized and are not nicely pinned on the map, but Google Places does have a more descriptive and in-depth info page for each. This includes pictures, directions, and ratings taken from other travel sites. The site has the vast database it needs to blow MapQuest Vibe off the charts but the layout and design are holding it back without doubt. Overall, MapQuest Vibe is one to keep an eye on in the rising market of destination overview websites in 2012.
Ellen Studer

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