Twitter API Adds Location Data - Tweets Get Realtime Geo

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has just announced a new geolocation API that will be available to developers fairly soon (Twitter API profile). The new API, which will likely be rolled out in Twitter clients before being available on the Twitter site, will allow users and developers to add latitude and longitude to tweets, thereby adding a valuable new layer of meta information to tweets.

According to Biz's post, the new API has various implications for improving how Twitter is used, including the ability for users to connect with other users based on geographic commonality:

For example, with accurate, tweet-level location data you could switch from reading the tweets of accounts you follow to reading tweets from anyone in your neighborhood or city—whether you follow them or not. It's easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake. There will likely be many use cases we haven't even thought of yet which is part of what makes this so exciting.

The API will first be released as a developer preview, and it likely that we will see existing apps and mashups built with the Twitter API quickly integrate this new feature. We can only guess that we also will see the rapid emergence of a new breed of geolocation enabled apps and mashups that use this new API in unexpected ways.

Documentation on the new API is not yet available. Developers and Twitter users should note that this in an opt-in feature, especially important with respect to privacy. As Biz describes it:

Folks will need to activate this new feature by choice because it will be off by default and the exact location data won't be stored for an extended period of time. However, if people do opt-in to sharing location on a tweet-by-tweet basis, compelling context will be added to each burst of information.

The news is certainly leading to quite a buzz on various blogs (TechCrunch, Mashable, and Google Maps Mania) as well as on Twitter itself. O'Reilly's Brady Forrest points out that there are more technical details in the Twitter developer group, including source example shown below


We're excited to hear about this, and we're curious to see how this new API will fit into the overall geolocaiton ecosystem, which includes Yahoo!'s Fire Eagle (our Fire Eagle API Profile) and Google Latitude.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: MapQuest Zooming Away With Its Features