CARTO (formerly CartoDB) is a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud computing platform that provides GIS and web mapping tools for display in a web browser. The company is positioned as a Location Intelligence platform due to tools with an aptitude for data analysis and visualisation that don't require previous GIS or development experience.

CARTO users can use the company's free platform or deploy their own instance of the open source software. CARTO is offered as freemium service, where accounts are free up to a certain size. For larger accounts, a fee is applied. It was first released in Beta at FOSS4G in Denver in September 2011, and officially debuted as a final release at Where2.0 in April 2012.

Since 2014, CARTO is a company independent from Vizzuality. The Spanish start-up raised $7 million from a consortium of investors in September 2014. In September 2015, CARTO received a $23 million in Series B financing.


CARTO is an open source software built on PostGIS and PostgreSQL. The tool uses JavaScript extensively in the front end web application, back end Node.js based APIs, and for client libraries. CARTO consists of two primary offerings.

The CARTO Builder

The first is the web application called the CARTO Builder where users can manage data, run user side analysis and design custom maps. The builder is intended for non developers and beginners to have access to, and be able to use advanced geospatial tools. In the builder, advanced users additionally have access a web interface where SQL can be used to manipulate data and CartoCSS, a cartography language similar to CSS, can be used for data driven map design.

Map visualisation with CartoDB of improved Page Load Times for Wikipedia

The CARTO Engine

The second offering is the CARTO Engine, which is a set of APIs and developer libraries for building custom map and data visualisation interfaces.


The Maps API that acts as a dynamic tile service, which creates new tiles based on client requests. This allows users to design maps in the web application, then use those styles and data in custom web applications.

The SQL API, where PostgreSQL-supported SQL statements can be used to retrieve data from the database. The SQL API serves data in various formats including Shapefile, GeoJSON, and CSV.

The Data Services API allows for easily building functionalities such as routing, geocoding, and vector basemaps.

Javascript Libraries

Finally, there's the Carto.js library, which can wrap the APIs into complete visualisations or be used to integrate data into additional web applications

Community & Culture

Kinds of communities

CARTO has active user communities with a broad range of interests. Communities range from developers to activists to scientists solving a large number of different problems. Due to the low barrier of entry for users, a large number of communities have adopted CARTO as a main technology for working with spatial data and making maps.

CARTO's developer community consists of both users of the hosted software and people deploying their own open source instances of the software. The community primarily uses a forum, and the IRC channel #carto on freenode. Many members of the community gather at the and annual conferences.

In addition to the independent user communities, a large number of businesses and organisations have adopted the SaaS service or the open source platform for their own needs. These groups include NASA, Nokia, Google Trends, Deloitte, BCG, New York City, Wall Street Journal, BBVA and Twitter

Education Culture

CARTO supports a variety of educational groups of all sizes. One of the most notable contributions of CARTO has been the long-term Pizza sponsorship for every meet up globally.