Citymaps Adds Web Publishing; Ex-Nokia Here CEO Halbherr Joins As Executive Chairman

The social mapping platform has struck deals with The NYT, Travel & Leisure, Buzzfeed, and Gothamist as it expands from apps to the web.


Personalized mapping platform Citymaps is allowing users to customize, collaborate, and build collections of themed maps via the web instead of only through its Google Android and Apple iOS apps.

The addition of a browser-based platform is designed to expand its relationships with local experts generally and major publishers in particular. As the New York-based company continues to builds up its all-star map curators such as chef and author Anthony Bourdain and Michelin Guides, Citymaps is working with publications such as the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Buzzfeed, and Gothamist as it expands from apps to the web.

The Web Is Not Dead

While consumers spend much of their mobile time in apps, the mobile web is far from dead. That’s especially true thanks to the rise of deep-linking, which can mix search results from both app systems and the mobile browser. The new web app features a WebGL vector map, a Javascript based program for creating  imagery, which is positioned as a complement to Citymaps’ mobile app focus.

“We built a strong vector mapping product and now we’re porting that to the web,” said Citymaps CEO Elliot Cohen. “Our users want a bigger form factor. People want to make their map collections on desktop, and with a keyboard, it’s an easier way to plan trips. When you think about, you know, the trip planning process I think on average people visit 28 websites before they even go on one trip. We see Citymaps as a central point where they can put all of those places of interest into one location and really use that on the go.”

The expansion to the web is meant to give Citymaps users a greater range of map “templates” to help different users tell different types of stories. Those templates include: Maps with friends, Community Maps (wiki-style maps to crowdsource the world’s best local knowledge), Road Trip maps, Hotel Concierge maps, Travel Itinerary guides, AirBNB Host maps, and several more.

Citymaps' Elliot Cohen
Citymaps’ Elliot Cohen

By adding a web-based function, sharing those map collections becomes much simpler, Cohen said.

“Mobile web is actually the key here,” Cohen said. “From that vantage point, if you think about someone who makes content, when you share that content, we hear from everybody that there’s a kind of app fatigue setting in out there. If somebody creates some content — says a map of a trip they took to Bali — they can mail that to a friend. And a friend clicks on a link in that email only to find they have to download an app — and it’s frustrating. Plus, putting that content on Facebook or Twitter was totally gated in the past. Now, you can actually have the full experience whether you’re on mobile web, whether you’re on desktop web, whether you have the app. So this is about creating a fuller location-based cloud system at this point so you can really experience this stuff anywhere.”

The Rise of Personal Logistics

Citymaps' Michael Halbherr
Citymaps’ Michael Halbherr

The race of companies such as Uber to take greater ownership of its logistics data and navigation capabilities is something that has fueled a wider attitude for on-demand tools for publishers as well. To help Citymaps continue to differentiate itself and chart its own path and services, the company is bringing on Nokia HERE CEO, Michael Halbherr, who is widely respected in mapping services, as executive chairman.

After a bidding war for Nokia’s pioneering navigation tool that reportedly brought Uber and Facebook head-to-head, a consortium of German automakers ended up buying HERE for $3 billion in August.

Cohen struck up a friendship with Halbherr about six months ago, just as the deal talks for HERE were winding down.

“Citymaps is establishing itself as the world’s leading publishing platform for Map Collections,” Halbherr said in a statement. “The analogue paper experience of making maps and guides has not translated well to the online ecosystem. Citymaps is best positioned to fill this gap, providing people and publishers with the tools to tell their stories with beautiful, digital map collections.  During my tenure at HERE Maps, we focused on the index of people, places and things, and I’m excited to continue this work with the exceptional team at Citymaps.”

“Michael is one of the foremost visionaries in the map space; he’s a seasoned executive with just amazing management experience,” Cohen continued. “For the first time, it’s somebody that I can call who knows so much about what we’re doing, about the market, about the technology, about the product, about how users kind of use maps so it’s this incredible resource that we can all rely on now.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.