Russian Search Giant Yandex Rolls Into Europe, U.S. With Digital Mapping Expansion; Richer Geo-Location Services In Pipeline

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Hot on the heels of launching its own Internet browser and an Android app store to build out its business and keep Google at bay in its home territory, Russian search engine Yandex has quietly extended the reach of its digital mapping service — launching international maps for Europe and the U.S.

The maps are powered by Navteq mapping data which Yandex licensed back in January, and can be accessed at maps.yandex.com (and via its Turkish portal maps.yandex.com.tr).

The launch is a limited one at this point — which explains why Yandex isn’t making a huge noise about it (we were tipped off by this blog) — a Yandex spokesman describes it as a “basement” for future geo-location services. Currently the service only offers simple features such as route planning and a limited search for features such as cities, villages and seas. Richer features such as searching by address, points of interest, merchants, traffic monitoring and street view are not currently offered but will be added in future, says Yandex — albeit no word on when as yet. The company notes it already offers those features in its maps for Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Back when it licensed the Navteq data, Yandex said: “These digital maps will be used in the development of a detailed world map for the Yandex.Maps service” — but did not flag up any plans for taking its mapping service international. That said, Yandex notes that the international maps are intended mostly to serve Russians and Turkish users of Yandex. “We think map service will be useful for Europeans and Americans as well, but we are thinking about translating it [from the Navteq default of English] into Turkish/Russian when we have geo-services,” a spokesman added.

In Russia, Yandex’s Maps service does especially well on the desktop, with 16.5 million unique users in September 2012, according to ComScore. The company says it also clocked 6.6 million mobile users for its maps in the month.

In Russian and the CIS Yandex has made and supports digital maps for most of regions, partnering with other local maps providers to ensure comprehensive coverage.