The rise of the mobile web and the integration of our online and offline experiences point towards one big opportunity: for the world's information to be organized by place.
Hyperlocal news service Fwix today announces a new service that allows any other application developer to pull the names, locations and web content about places in 8 countries around the world. The data is free and comes with an offer to share access to Fwix's ad revenue, which includes ads from partners Comcast and AT&T.
The Need for a Local Content Platform
Publishing content to the web is now easy to do and finding the right content by keyword is relatively easy. Finding the best content to suit the physical location a user finds themselves in offline is not so simple yet, however. There's no universally accepted structure for knowing where a certain business or landmark is and the web is full of information laying dormant because it's not surfaced appropriately by place.
A service that indexes and delivers content through the lense of location could enable a whole new world of application development.
I visited my favorite park down the street from my house a few weeks ago and just happened to Google the right keywords and click through several pages of results to find a beautiful walking-tour of all the trees in the park. The fact that such content wasn't made available to me quickly and easily once I told the internet I was at the park is a sign that the internet is broken.
Fwix says it adds about 100,000 pieces of geotagged web content into its index daily, not including Tweets it associates with places through location metadata and entity extraction from messages. The company also learns that some accounts consistently talk about things in a particular place. The service pulls place-related keywords out of all kinds of content, including multimedia like photo descriptions and video transcripts. Locations are assigned based on analysis of place names and keywords in text.
App developers can pull that data into their own apps by using the place organization system developed by another startup called Factual. Factual is a big data service started by Gilad Elbaz, the man who built the system behind Google Adsense.
The whole system is both read and write enabled - developers can push places discovered and place-based content published into the Fwix database, which will then be served up to other apps. Content can be filtered by area, keyword, type or popularity (using the number of Foursquare check-ins as a metric of popularity).
Fwix says it's hard at work indexing archival web content as well and hopes to someday offer the data platform for "the augmented reality view of the world" - web content rich histories for any place a person might find themselves.
The venture funded company ($6.5m) has 22 employees and says it is now doing more than $1 million in annual revenue, based on licensing fees it charges big companies for its data.
Below, the location-based content market according to Fwix.