Can OpenGeocoder Fill the Platform Gap Left by Google Maps?
“How do machines understand what place you're talking about when you say the name of a city, a street or a neighborhood? With geocoding technology, that's how. Every location-based service available uses a geocoder to translate the name of a place into a location on a map. But there isn't a really good, big, stable, public domain geocoder available on the market. Steve Coast, the man who lead the creation of Open Street Map, has launched a new project to create what he believes is just what the world of location-based services needs in order to grow to meet its potential. It's called OpenGeocoder and it's not like other systems that translate and normalize data. Open Street Map (OSM) is under a particular Creative Commons license and "exists for the ideological minority," says Coast himself in a Tweet this week. And so Coast, who now works at Microsoft, has decided to solve the problem himself... The way OpenGeocoder works is that users can search for any place they like, by any name they like. If the site knows where that place is, it will be shown on a big Bing map. If it doesn't, then the user is encouraged to draw that place on the map themselves and save it to the global database being built by OpenGeocoder... Every single different way a place can be described must be drawn on the map or added as a synonym, before OpenGeocoder will understand what that string of letters and numbers means with reference to place. Anyone can redraw a place on the map, too. Then developers of location-based services can hit a JSON API or download a dump of all the place names and locations for use in understanding place searches in their own apps. It appears that just under 1,000 places have been added so far. It will take a serious barn-raising to build out a map of the world this way. It wouldn't be the first time something a little like this has been done before...”