AOL’s MapQuest has launched a social discovery and curation platform as part of an attempt to attract more users to its free online web mapping service.

MapQuest Discover, announced today, is one of several new features for MapQuest focused on creating “the complete travel experience”. The new concept, according to the company, includes being able to discover new places and plan for upcoming trips, as well as explore while you’re out on the road and easily document all of your adventures.

It’s a significant expansion for AOL and its MapQuest division, which seems to have lost some of its notoriety following the rise of alternative mapping services such as Google Maps, Bing Maps and even Apple’s own Maps app on iOS.

MapQuest Discover is a social platform that looks and feels an awful lot like Pinterest. The new page, available now from the top of the MapQuest website, instantly shows a range of tiles representing a whole host of content including user recommendations, published reviews and uploaded photographs.

mapquest discover AOLs MapQuest launches Discover, a social discovery platform for travel enthusiasts

When it’s all put together, the idea is that MapQuest Discover will not only encourage people to share and consider new places whenever they’re planning a trip, but also document their discoveries so that other people can learn from them.

Commenting on the launch, Francis Lobo, Senior Vice President of AOL Services, said today: “MapQuest Discover captures how a traveler gets inspired. As one user’s collections pique another’s interest, the MapQuest Discover platform spurs continued travel and shared experiences.”

To get an idea of how MapQuest Discover works, take a look at the promotional video below:

Although the service has been launched in beta today, the following features are available straight out of the gate:

  • Users can easily create and share ‘Collections’ of their favorite places, such as their favorite bars or beaches to go surfing. It could also bring together all the trips that they’ve already been on, or a wish list of places they want to go. (The latter is already a popular trend for Pinterest users, and no doubt MapQuest hopes that success can replicated here.) Collections also have a leaderboard attached to them, which shows who has traveled to the most places in the list. This is no doubt designed to promote friendly competition and also regular, extended use of the service.
  • The ‘Newsfeed’ is the starting page that shows interesting places, popular collections and also guides by professional travel writers. Although it uses infinite scroll, users can easily place a marker to show that they’ve been to a specific location, or that they want to add it to one of their own ‘Collections’. The curation aspect of MapQuest Discover means that popular Collections are given greater prominence in the news feed.
  • Every user has a profile page, referred to as a “Passport”, that shows all of the places they’ve been to and Collections that they’ve created. It’s basically what you’ve come to expect from any other social network.
  • MapQuest Discover is offering users access to hundreds of travel guides written by travel writers, which aims to inspire greater variety in travel destinations and also help users plan trips more easily. It’s a nice touch, and one that should give MapQuest Discover plenty of content from the outset.

The team behind MapQuest announced today that they are also revamping the MapQuest Local pages so that they now include more information, including travel guides, holiday deals and related Collections.

“Since more than 84 percent of all domestic trips in the United States are taken in a car, we believe MapQuest is perfectly suited to act as a true virtual concierge,” said Brian McMahon, General Manager of MapQuest. “This is just the beginning of a complete suite of helpful products and tools you’ll be seeing from MapQuest over the next several months to help travelers discover, plan, experience and share their journeys.”

Image Credit: Alberto Ziveri