{"API Evangelist"}

Quick Walk Through the World of Location & Places APIs

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I took a walk through what I am calling the locations and places API landscape today. Most of these APIs I’m familiar with, but as the CityGrid API Evangelist, I’m getting an opportunity to immerse myself into this new local, social mobile world.

As I immerse myself in this semi-new world I want to share my findings with everyone else.  If you have any suggestions make sure and let me know in comments below.

First I started with CityGrid APIs, which provide several key location and places APIs:

Then I wanted to see what Google was doing, and of course started with the Google Maps APIs:

Along with Google Maps they offer a set of Geo Web Services that contain several location and places based APIs:

Already with CityGrid and Google I’m seeing that the type of location and places services, really start to get complicated and diverse. With Google Latitude I start separating the location from the place, with what are two location specific APIs:

After Google I have to look at another big player, Yahoo. Yahoo has several location based services:

Naturally after taking a look at Yahoo I have to go see what Microsoft is up to in the space:

After looking at what local and mobile offerings the big players Google, Yahoo and Microsoft had I started looking at less search and mapping based services to more carrier based location and place services. I started with Verizon, who has a single location API:

Sprint brings three location APIs to the table:

AT&T has a LBS API:

Deutsche Telekom has one location API:

Ericsson Labs provides a developer community around a full suite of APIS:

France Telecom also has a location API:

Makes sense for every carrier to also provide developers with a set of location services, as they don’t want to just be dumb pipes. They want to be an integrated player in their own customers handset usage.

Next I start looking to put the social in local, mobile, social. Where else to you start but Facebook, which has two location based objects as part of the Graph API:

I thought I'd consider Twitter next.  They have Places and Geo methods, but it really doesn't seem like its going anywhere, and a really small portion of tweets have geo info recorded.  I will consider in the future if I see action around it.

In the category of location based social network I was investigating Foursquare and Gowalla, but with the recent Facebook acquisition of Gowalla I think I will only look at Foursquare. Foursquare offers access to four different APIs:

After Foursquare you leave social, getting into the places data world, with popular player SimpleGeo. Similar to Gowalla I was going to overlook SimpleGeo, with their recent acquisition by Urban Airship, but I think SimpleGeo is still an important enough of a player, that we should still consider them in the game. SimpleGeo has four distinct web services for location and places:

In the pure places data game I’d put Factual in the same category as SimpleGeo. Factual has seven location and places APIs:

Tied with SimpleGeo and Factual is InfoChimps. InfoChimps is a data marketplace player with some very strong location and places services:

Then moving out of pure data players Yelp has always been centered around reviews, and more recently, with version 2.0 of their API moved to be centered around the businesses. Yelp has two places APIs:

Another player in the space is Fwix. Fwix has a different approach to places, trying to geotag the web. Fwix offers six places and location APIs:

After Fwix I found a couple of other mapping, location and places data services:

These providers either didn’t have clear market share or started deviating into other parallel universes of content and services to location and places, so I'm going to stop here.

These 17 places and location API providers are a lot to process.  I want to spend some time getting a handle on the types of services they offer, before I dive into the peripheral services as well as the players that have less market share. But in my style, I'll keep posting my findings as I pull them together.