May 13

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

Yahoo! Internet Location Platform: One Location ID To Rule Them All

Today Yahoo launched a preview of the Yahoo! Internet Location Platform. It essentially creates an ID (a Where On Earth ID aka WOEID)for each place on earth and provides the API calls to geocode to and from that ID. It's very similar to Geonames IDs.

It's based on the dataset acquired with the acquisition of Whereonearth Limited. The company was created primarily for use on the backend of One its most visible uses was in the creation of the Places feature on Flickr (Radar posts 1 & 2).

Here are some details and examples from the overview page:

The API is accessed via HTTP GET; the following examples can be cut-and-paste into a web browser to view the results (note that these links do not work properly with IE6):
Find the WOEID of a significant landmark:
Resolve a WOEID to a place:
Find the WOEID of a specific place:
Obtain a range of WOEIDs that match a given place, ordered by the most likely:
Find the parent of a given WOEID (and return a detailed record):
Return the Placename for a given WOEID in a specific language (where it exists):
To obtain the representation of a place in JSON format:
To obtain a list of geographies that neighbor a specific WOEID:

Rate Limits

Currently, users of the Internet Location Platform are limited to 50k queries per day.

And some more details from their guide:

The Yahoo! Internet Location Platform contains about six million places. Coverage varies from country-to-country but globally includes several hundred thousand unique administrative areas with half a million variant names; several thousand historical administrative areas; over two million unique settlements and suburbs, and two-and-a-half million unique postcode points covering about 150 countries, plus a significant number of points of interest, Colloquial Regions, Area Codes, Time Zones, and Islands.
Note: Natural features and water geographies are not included in the current release.
All geographic entities in the Yahoo! Internet Location Platform exist within a hierarchy. The hierarchy acts as a simple topological model that allows developers to query the geographic context of every place represented by a WOEID, and obtain its parents, children, and neighbors. For example, a list of states in a particular country can be obtained by querying the Yahoo! Internet Location Platform for the children of that country; in a similar manner, the surrounding postcodes of particular postcode can be obtained via a neighbors query.


The Yahoo! Internet Location Platform is UTF-8 compliant and supports location names in multiple languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch as well as local double-byte character set data in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan.

Exposing a data set of this magnitude is significant so of course there is a lot more coverage out there for the curious. Dan Catt, one of the resident geo-experts at Flickr and a speaker at Where 2.0, dives into more detail and draws comparisons to the Flickr API. ReadWriteWeb also has an excellent analysis.

The Yahoo! Internet Location Platform offers a great boon to developers by potentially providing a common id for all locations across all apps. These IDs are also backed by one of the best geocoders available. Will developers want to rely on these IDs? It'll be interesting to hear developer's thoughts at Where 2.0 this week.

tags: geo, web 2.0  | comments: 6   | Sphere It

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Comments: 6

  grah! [05.13.08 02:40 AM]

This is an excellent move for Y!

Connecting the same exact places (in a capped scope) across sites will create so much rich data for applications and intelligent agents.

I agree with Simon W. on geobloggers- that we still need more precise third party terms before taking a long term WOEID incorporated stance.

  a [05.13.08 08:46 AM]

"It's very similar to Geonames IDs." Well, exactly. Where's the point.

  steve [05.13.08 06:00 PM]

What concerns me about this is that there's no way to extract the mapping ID from location. You can't have a location and then calculate what the ID would be.

As such, Yahoo will own the database that gives the ID all of the meaning, and if Yahoo close it down then there will be a lot of information that becomes meaningless.

If that happened, then no amount of calculation would be able to restore meaning.

  Ross Stapleton-Gray [05.13.08 09:18 PM]

I'd look to the GS1 people (who are the UPC product code, EPC RFID, etc., standards) as a possible place for an alternative; I know that geolocation is something they care about (as factories, depots, stores, shelves, etc.) all have to live somewhere, and be referenceable and findable. OTOH, they tend to confine their gaze inside the bubble of "supply chain," and haven't rushed to extend "The Internet of Things" outside of that scope (though I think they should).

  Gerd Kamp [05.14.08 09:12 AM]

As somebody who is geocoding news of a professional news organization, having id's do disambiguate geolocations in and of the the news is crucial.

While i'll love geonames.org, as a professional news organization we just can't rely on the risk that somebody changes the locations and names of these id's.

Hence i ended up buying and aggregating this kind of data (only for parts of europe) by myself.

Hence i appreciate that Yahoo undertook the task to aggregate all that data, but like other i kinda don't like the vendor lock in. Alos wondering about the long term persistence of the WOEID's e.g after administrative reforms etc.

After a quick first look (attending Where2.0 right now, hence not much time for anything else) i also suspect that (not quite surprisingly) there are some flaws at least in the german data.

Looking forward to talk about these things with the Yahoo guys at WhereCamp.

  MAAK [05.16.08 11:12 AM]

Is anyone having the same problem with yahoo today that I'm experiencing. When I try to connect to my yahoo homepage, It connects in the Dutch language. What's going on?

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