As location-based services continue to spring up, it's becoming increasingly important that these companies have access to correction location data. However, there's no one place where developers can go to access or verify this data, and there's no single database for location-based information.
But Foursquare has just announced an effort to move things in that direction: a "venue harmonization map" that it says it hopes can serve as a Rosetta Stone, of sorts, for location data.
Part of Foursquare's new initiative involves opening its Venues API and removing some of the restrictions on access to it. The API will be available at higher rate limits, but more importantly, now developers will be able to search Foursquare venues and find associated data - such as tips, photos, and trending check-in information - without requiring their end-users to authenticate via Foursquare.
Creating a Rosetta Stone for Location Data
The Venue API is part of a larger effort of "building a comprehensive Venue Harmonization map." This will help link information about places from one database to any other, and Foursquare announced four partners that are involved in this at launch: The New York Times, New York Magazine, Thrillist, and MenuPages.
As it currently stands, if you look up a restaurant in one location database - via Foursquare, for instance, it will have a different ID number than if you look that up its review in The New York Times. This can make integrating data different. The Venue Harmonization Map aims to "translate between these databases, making it easier to create mash-ups, link to pages on other sites, or add foursquare widgets like 'Add to foursquare' to publisher sites."
The Future of the Platform
This won't put the location data under Foursquare's control per se. It's just a way to translate IDs - think "Rosetta Stone." And it seems unlikely that all the players in the location space, namely Google and Facebook, will play along. Nonetheless, Foursquare's announcement will give developers a boost in building products that can access all this data, including the real-time check-in information.
In light of some of the recent kerfuffle around the Twitter's relationship with third party development, it's noteworthy that the title of Foursquare blog post asserts "the importance of platforms" - a comfort perhaps to developers who may feel suddenly wary about building products on someone else's API.