Map enthusiasts and social media aficionados, rejoice! A website and iPhone application that is officially launching today is taking the concept of mapping to a whole new interactive level that might forever change your physical and virtual existence as a New Yorker.
In all seriousness, though, this thing’s pretty cool — CityMaps, a one-stop shop map site and iPhone app, integrates hyperlocal data with all kinds of social media functions so that users can browse around and make plans based on real-time information coming from across the city.
Here’s how it works: The map, which aims to include the name and location of every storefront on every block, is connected to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and all the other cool networking sites kids are using these days. CityMaps users can browse what’s around them, find out what other people have said and are saying about these establishments, and get info on what kinds of deals or events these businesses are having at that moment. All in a user-friendly, visually-intuitive format!
Users can do filtered searches on the map by category (entertainment, bars, shopping, etc.), and make reservations or buy movie tickets, for example, right there in the app. A live feed on the left side of the map also presents deals at nearby businesses as well as recent geographically-relevant tweets.
In what might be one of the most useful functions, users can also click subway icons on the map and see when the next trains are scheduled to arrive. (You Williamsburg folks may not have to depend on this anymore!)
Last week, the founder of CityMaps, which is launching in San Francisco and Austin as well, gave Runnin’ Scared a demonstration of how the map works and told us a bit of the story behind its creation.
“The thesis behind what we’re doing is pretty simple,” said Elliot Cohen, the 36-year-old co-founder and CEO who went to high school on the Upper East Side and has a background in tech startups and real estate. “The web is social and cities are social, but the online mapping world and online maps have not really evolved much for the last ten years or so. The maps that we use really were created for directions and navigations.”
“What we wanted to do was create a map that has social dynamics in its DNA,” he said, adding that there’s nothing quite like it out there yet and he hopes to expand it further to other cities in the future. (You may notice that they’re still in the process of filling out all the data for parts of the outer boroughs in the New York City map — fear not, it should be completed in a few weeks or so).
His team launched a test version over the summer and has been refining it since. He and his co-founder were tinkering with ways to combine these big datasets — they want to get 100% of businesses on the map — with the social world. A lot of the refining has been geared toward making it easier to navigate. Now, everything on the map is clickable and users don’t actually ever have to leave the map when making plans or browsing businesses, he said.
Part of his motivation for the idea came from his own experience living and socializing in New York City, trying to take advantage of good deals or discounts at restaurants, Cohen said. “There’s a ton of savings in the city, but it’s very hard to make sense of it especially for New Yorkers, who don’t have time.” (Busy, busy New Yorkers, you need not plan ahead — just look at what your iPhone is telling you about the world around you!)
He hopes to expand it to 25-30 cities by the end of the year. There’s a need for this kind of thing, he added. “We were just very surprised that no one had tried to do this…It’s a very simple way to explore your city.”