Yahoo! Placemaker – Open Location, Open Data and Supporting Web Services


Today at Where 2.0 Tyler Bell, the Head of Yahoo’s Geo Technologies Group, launched Placemaker (this link should be live at posting). Placemaker is a webservice that takes in text and returns the locations found within via either XML or enhanced GeoRSS. The locations Placemaker returns come in the form of WOEIDs (Radar post). You might be cautious about relying on Yahoo’s ID system for your locations. To alleviate your fears Yahoo! is announcing the release of GeoPlanet Data, all of the WOEIDs available as a free download under Creative Commons in June. Woot!

Placemaker’s geoparsing API will return WOEIDs and place names for all of the locations detected in the submitted text. This text can be structured or unstructured. If their are multiple locations detected the it will return a common ancestor called the Doc Scope. For example if San Francisco and Los Angeles are in the text then the Doc Scope will be “California”. If San Francisco and Sacramento were in unstructured text then the Doc Scope would return the colloquial term “Northern California”. There are no explicit limits on the API as long as your usage is “nice” — if it’s not you may find yourself shut off for a while.

Placemaker is an updated version of the geoparsing engine currently available through Yahoo! Pipes. This release rightfully makes geoparsing a stand-alone API. If you want to learn more about Placemaker Yahoo has posted the following instructions:

1. Read the online documentation at

2. Get an Application Id at

3. POST your content to

The WOEIDs will be made available under the CC-Attribute license. It will ultimately include over 5 million entities in multiple languages. Relationships between the entities will be included.

Up till now Geonames IDs have been used as place IDS by many apps. All of Geonames’ data is freely available for download. It was tough for Yahoo to compete with this open data solution. Today’s release and announcement really ups the game. By making the data freely available developers will no longer have much fear about using the data. WOEIDs were first released as a webservice a year ago. At that point in time I expect the free release of the WOEID data to greatly increased the uptake of these supporting webservices and make Yahoo an integral part of mapping mashups.

Yahoo! has more info over on their Geo Technologies Blog.

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