Abstracting Spatial Relationships with the Yahoo! Internet Location Platform

Note: This blog post was originally published on the Yahoo! Local & Maps Blog.

Like the London Tube Map, recording and retrieval of locations and their relationships doesn’t always have to do with their Lat/Lon. There is a more elegant way to abstract the relationships of location, and unambiguously describe places in a permanent, language-neutral manner. Since Where on Earth joined Yahoo! in 2005, Yahoo! has geo-enabled the network, including geo-tagging advertising, Flickr photos, Yahoo! Maps, and so many of the location-based services that Yahoo! has offered.

Yahoo! is now offering a developer preview of this Yahoo! Internet Location Platform.

Here’s an example of the new platform in action. Check out this photo on Flickr. This photo was geo-tagged by the user, and since it was placed on a map, we were able to give it a set of these location tags. If you browse in to the tagged metadata using the Flickr API, you’ll notice a set of geo-tags called WOEID (Where On Earth IDs) which are permanent, unambiguous, language neutral tags that represent that location.

Since we have content with a tag, we can find out some interesting things, tag 727232 for example, is Amsterdam, and we can use the new APIs that we’re releasing to find out all sorts of relevant relationship information, including:

  • The parent, the administrative region of Amsterdam
  • Neighbors, such as Landsmeer, Zaandam, and Watergang.
  • Belong Tos, such as North Holland, Western Europe, and the Europe/Amsterdam Time Zone
  • and more!
  • (Note: The links above are in XML, and may not be viewable in all browsers.)

This service allows you to discover location relationships from free-text place names, tag your content with location IDs for easy indexing, disambiguate numerous objects tagged with the same location, and so on.

Go ahead and check out the documentation on the Yahoo! Developer Network at https://developer.yahoo.com/geo/.

Congrats to the Yahoo! Geo team on this preview.

Michael Lawless
Sr. Product Manager, Yahoo! Maps

P.S. For more on subject, check out the post by Dan Catt on geobloggers.com.