Yahoo wanted to buy location-based check-in service Foursquare last April - it's sinking its teeth deeper into the geolocation arena. The search engine and content aggregator announced this morning the release of Yahoo PlaceFinder, an expansion of their mapping and location capabilities that take aim in the direction of check-in services like Foursquare and Gowalla and other location features like Twitter Places.Maybe now we can see why
While Yahoo may have been a little late to the social game, it seems determined to not fall behind in the next big thing - mobile social.
Yahoo PlaceFinder replaces the Yahoo Maps Geocoding API, which simply provided a longitude and latitude given an address. Whereas the geocoding API supported only such basic characteristics (nine in total) as you might see on the front of a letter, Yahoo PlaceFinder will add 23 new fields, including things like time zone, area code and neighborhood. In addition to these more standard fields, PlaceFinder will also support the "Where On Earth ID" that is already supported by other Yahoo APIs, such as Flickr and Weather.
The most telling addition, however, might be that of reverse geocoding, wherein providing a longitude and latitude coordinate (such as might be provided using a GPS-enabled mobile device) returns the nearest physical address. Taking GPS coordinates and being able to cross-reference them with the addresses of businesses around you can be a rather handy capability for any mapping service, of course.
In all, PlaceFinder "supports building-level address recognition in over 75 countries, and points of interest, airports, cities and other place names (including administrative areas) for these countries and the rest of the world," according to the company's release.
PlaceFinder looks to be the counterpart of another beta Yahoo API, Placemaker, which "helps developers make their applications location-aware by identifying places".