Where 2.0 today, Yahoo announced a new product in its already impressive lineup of geo technologies: Placemaker. Placemaker is a new open API from Yahoo that helps developers to make their applications and data sets location-aware. Developers can feed Placemaker any kind of structured and unstructured data, including feeds and web pages, and the app will analyze the text and extract location data from it. This, could, for example, allow news organizations to easily tag their content with location data and create hyper-local products based on this data.At
We talked to Tyler Bell, the product lead for the Yahoo Geo Technology Group, yesterday, and in the interview, he stressed that Placemaker, which will be open and freely available today, should be considered a 'geo-enrichment tool.' Placemaker can take virtually any type of written content and will try to extract geographic information from this.
Global Coverage, 21 Languages
While this might seem like a simple task at first (just look for references to 'San Francisco' or 'New York City'), Placemaker actually uses very sophisticated analytics to disambiguate which of the 39 Springfields in the U.S. a text actually refers to. To do so, Placemaker, will, for example, also look for colloquial names for bridges or references to streets and local sights in a text. As many texts obviously contain references to more than one place, Placemaker will often return more than one location per text, though it will try to determine the location.
While Placemaker's database covers the globe and will work for texts in 21 different languages (including texts using double-byte character sets in Japanese, Korean and Traditional Chinese), it will - at least in this first iteration - work best for texts in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
Opening Up The Deep Geo-Web
Yahoo is trying to make this service as open as possible, and there is, for example, no formal rate limit. As Bell told us, Yahoo wants to help developers to open up what he called the "deep geo-web." In many ways, this new tools also fits in with the general strategy of moving away from a "web of pages to a web of objects" that Yahoo announced yesterday.
GeoPlanet for All
In addition, Yahoo also announced that, starting today, it will allow developers to download and use the full data set of Yahoo's GeoPlanet. The GeoPlanet data, which contains information about millions of placenames in multiple languages, also forms the basis of Placemaker's geographical knowledge.The GeoPlanet data will be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
According to Bell, Yahoo is looking forward to seeing what developers will do with this data. Placemaker is definitely an interesting addition to Yahoo set of geo tools like FireEagle and GeoPlanet, and we are also looking forward to seeing how developers will make use of these newly available tools and we are hoping to see more of Placemaker in Yahoo's own tools as well.