How to Make Sense of a User's Geolocation

Adam DuVander
Feb. 22 2010, 03:38AM EST

There is a new wave of mapping APIs that are helping developers provide better location feedback to users. These "reverse geocoders" do more than just return an address. Instead, they provide meaningful names associated with the place, such as a business. In some cases, it gets even more specific.

TownMe GeoGeoAPI has many features (which we covered when it launched) that help developers. Perhaps that's why Twitter bought GeoAPI early into the company's life. The very powerful reverse geocoder can return business name, city or neighborhood name. And it includes the boundaries of those places, so you can make more sense of the area around you.

GeoLenz gets even more granular, providing data about areas within larger locations. It calls its service "smart geocoding" (see its developer documentation and our Geolenz API profile), and the company is currently working within three domains: theme parks, golf courses and campuses. The GeoLenz demos show standard reverse geocode results next to their own, which tells you the building, attraction and other information about a place.

GeoLenz Disneyland geocoding

For example, on particular golf courses, GeoLenz returns the hole and the distance from the green. Or, as shown above, you can determine the closest ride at a Disney park. FourSquare, the location sharing service, may eventually be able to offer similar user-generated data. Users have been adding Disneyland venues (you may need to search near Anaheim, CA).

Google BuzzGeoLenz compares its geocode results to Google. At the Google Buzz event, Vic Gundotra showed off how it converts a user's latitude and longitude to useful name. Buzz even lets you select from a list of many results, something that is necessary in urban areas.

Google Buzz has an API, but it is currently focused on Buzz-related features. Will that geocoder be part of the Buzz API? Probably not, because it's only tangentially related to the product. That data is useful enough that we hope it becomes part of another API from Google, perhaps rolled into its current geocoder.

Adam DuVander Hi! I'm Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and former Executive Editor of ProgrammableWeb. I currently serve as a Contributing Editor. If you have API news, or are interested in writing for ProgrammableWeb, please contact editor@programmableweb.com Though I'm a fan of anything API-related, my particular interest is in mapping. I've published a how-to book, Map Scripting 101, to get anyone started making maps on websites. In a not-so-distant past life I wrote for Wired and Webmonkey.

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