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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yahoo’s New Internet Location Platform

I read a few news article about this new platform, the Yahoo Internet Location Platform, including Dan Katt’s blog post but I didn’t get it. Those articles, I think, are written for programmers, the folks who’ll use the platform. Still, this is it’s very cool and I think the rest of us should know what it does! And, frankly, I think too many people are too wrapped up in other platforms to see what’s going on at Yahoo. I think Fire Eagle is killer, but I keep talking to people who don’t know what it is. I don’t want that to happen with YILP, so here’s what this new platform is, as I (a non-programmer) understand it.

Yahoo has and uses a big database of location information. It’s got points (places of interest), towns and cities, states, and countries in it. Each has an ID, called a WOEID (Where on Earth ID, Yahoo acquired WhereOnEarth a London company in 2005). Yahoo has opened up that database to the world complete with an API (application programming interface). That means programs can ask questions of and receives answers from this big database via a Web service.

Like what? Like:

Give me the WOEID of Boston, MA. (Why? Because maybe you to find pictures of Boston from Flickr. You’d use that value to ask Flickr for the pics.)
Give me the location of 2507854 (Where would you get that? you could get it from Fire Eagle!)
Give me the “next level up” (parent) geography for my point of interest, or in other words, in what city is the Eiffel Tower?
Give me the neighboring ZIP Codes to 12795711 (the WOEID of a ZIP Code).
Another cool one - the ability to ask for the name of a place in a specific language!

Many have already asked for a comparison to Geonames (a free online database with services built on it used by many location-based services to do some of these things). My sense is that Yahoo will tap into the wisdom of the masses to grow this database, just as Geonames does. And, since Yahoo’s already aligned with OpenStreetMap, perhaps it can play well with Geonames? Could this database end up as the worlds single place coding database?

by Adena Schutzberg on 05/13 at 09:41 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

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