AOL also likely to eye sale of MapQuest--Is Microsoft a possible buyer?

Purchasers of the mapping and directions service are likely to be other mapping giants, such as Microsoft, sources say.

Kara Swisher

Yesterday, BoomTown wrote about AOL's efforts--including hiring investment bankers--to sell its ICQ instant-messaging unit.

But that's probably not going to be the end of the shedding of assets at the online site.

In fact, according to sources inside and outside AOL, one of the next candidates for sale could be its MapQuest online map service.

Purchasers of the service that provides mapping and directions, sources said, are likely to be other mapping giants, especially Microsoft.

But it is not clear if the software giant or anyone would fork over a huge sum of money for MapQuest.

That would include the $1.1 billion in stock that AOL paid for MapQuest in 1999.

AOL is set to spin itself off in less than a month from corporate owner Time Warner, and sources said selling off peripheral properties is part of becoming a smaller, more focused company.

MapQuest, like AOL's Bebo social-networking site, fits this description.

While it does have widespread distribution across the Web, reaching over 40 million users monthly, MapQuest lags well behind aggressive efforts being pushed by both Microsoft and Google.