New Map Layout

June 26, 2013

screenshot new map

New GeoNames Map Interface

After many years without major changes to the GeoNames Map Interface it was time for an update. The new Map Interface makes full use of the screen for the map view. Other information is displayed on top of the map. The GeoNames gazetteer layer can now be displayed together with the wikipedia mashup. Boundingboxes and polygon boundaries are displayed where available and when associated with a GeoName feature. The bounding box is derived from the polygon information or from bounding boxes of children features. For populated places without polygon information the bounding box is derived from population number and feature code.

Thanks to Christophe for the implementation.

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GeoNames is switching from the original SRTM data provided by NASA to the processed srtm v4.1 data provided by cgiar. The extract files now contain srtm data where available and gtopo30 elsewhere.

SRTM is digital elevation model from 56° S to 60° N in a three arcsecond (90 m) resolution. The original data provided by NASA contains small holes of no data over water bodies, mountainous regions and desertic regions. Andy Jarvis and Edward Guevara of the CIAT Agroecosystems Resilience project (CGIAR), Hannes Isaak Reuter (JRC-IES-LMNH) and Andy Nelson (JRC-IES-GEM) have further processed the original DEMs to fill in these no-data voids. This involved the production of vector contours and points, and the re-interpolation of these derived contours back into a raster DEM.  The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience.

GeoNames has been kindly granted permission to use the processed srtm data. In exchange CGIAR has been given complimentary access to the premium web services. Thanks to Andy Jarvis and all the others involved.

srtm3 elevation for N46 E8 in the Swiss Alps - void areas in red

srtm3 v4.1 N46 E8 in the Swiss Alps - no data voids filled by cgiar

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South Sudan Country Codes

August 11, 2011

ISO has published the country codes for South Sudan. As expected in our blog posting it is SS. The letter codes for Sudan remain the same, whereas the numeric code for Sudan was changed from 736 to 729.

ISO Alpha-2 ISO Alpha-3 ISO Numeric US BGN*
Sudan  SD  SDN  729  SU
South Sudan  SS  SSD  728  OD

* US BGN=Formerly FIPS PUB 10-4

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Republic of South Sudan

August 9, 2011

Flag South Sudan
South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011.
The new country has received geonameid 7909807. ISO has not yet assigned a country code and we temporarily use the country code XS. It will be changed to the official code as soon as ISO assigns a code to the new country. The ISO code is expected to be SS.  The Republic of South Sudan is not the only country in the GeoNames database with a temporary country code. The other temporary country code XK stands for Kosovo.
The features of South Sudan have been updated with the temporary country
code.
Sudan had 25 ADM1 before the independence of the south. 15 ADM1 remain
with Sudan, 10 states are now the ADM1 of South Sudan which formerly composed the provinces of Equatoria (Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Western Equatoria); Bahr el Ghazal (Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Warrap); and Upper Nile (Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile).

Historical place names

April 29, 2011

Improving the way GeoNames handles historical names is a popular feature request. GeoNames is now beginning to address this question.

There are two new flags in the alternate name edit tool:
isHistoric for names of the past that are no longer used.
isColloquial for slang and colloquial names

At the recent Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers is was discussed how GeoNames could be extended to improve support for the timeline. Some attributes under consideration:
- fromPeriod (date, year, decade, century or period of usage)
- toPeriod
- source (book or map where the name is used), publication date of the source
- notes

The discussion for these fields is still ongoing and any feedback is welcome.
The two new flags isColloquial and isHistoric are not yet included in the daily extract as we will probably add some more attributes and don’t want to change the extract files too often. Each change in the extact files breaks the import scripts of users. We will extract the records with the two new flags in separate files as a temporary workaround till everything is stable.

Did you ever wonder where GeoNames webservices are called from? We have analyzed 470M reverse geocoding calls from January 2011 and created some heat maps.

reverse geocoding requests in January 2011

Smartphones make about half of the calls. While Android with 150M reverse geocoding calls is leading ahead of the iPhone with 100M calls, the iPhone covers a larger area.

Android

iPhone

Comparing Android vs iPhone we have found that Andoid is leading in Northern Europe, the United States and India. The iPhone is extremly popular on the Arabian peninsula and many megacities.

Android (green) vs iPhone (red)

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To cope with the increasing number of smartphones GeoNames has to introduce an application tracking for the free web services. The current system of limiting credit usage per IP address is replaced by a system that tracks usage per application.
GeoNames is now serving over 25 million requests daily, half of which originate from smartphones.

free web service user agents, January 2011

The new domain api.geonames.org will now host the free web services. It requires that the mandatory parameter username=<geonames username> be appended to all requests. You can register a username here.
The domain ws.geonames.org domain will remain operational for a grace period to allow applications to update to the new domain.
We know it is a hassle to have to change the call, but the load and performance problems on the free servers have become unacceptable and need to be addressed.

In order to improve the performance on the free servers we had to reduce the radius upper limit for the findNearbyPostalCodes and the findNearbyWikipedia services. The default radius was also reduced.

Despite the new system we are still looking for Sponsors to help cope with the costs of running the free services. The more sponsors the more requests can be handled.

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Visualizations

January 11, 2011

Stephen Von Worley from datapointed.net has published some beautiful visualizations of the GeoNames database. Each of the 7.5-million geographic features is represented by a single dot, colored additively: blue for water, green for land, and red for manmade structures.

US places

datapointed.net

Also interesting to note, besides their pure beauty, are some artifacts (for instance a band in Ireland with lower feature density) clearly visible on the visualizations. Some of them (like the US-Canadian border) are caused by different data providers (usgs vs geobase) and therefore different feature density or feature type assignment. Others are caused by the data entry process itself. A lot of GeoNames data is coming from paper maps and you can see in some areas the form of the original maps used as data source.

Three new countries came into being after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in October 2010. Curaçao and Sint Maarten became countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands whereas Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius became special municipalities of the Netherlands proper.  ISO assigned the code BQ to the three BES islands, which results in the following table:

ISO2 ISO3 ISO# FIPS CURR
Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba BQ BES 535 NL USD
Curaçao CW CUW 531 UC ANG/CMG
Sint Maarten SX SXM 534 NN ANG/CMG

The island of Saint Martin is divided into the French northern part (MF) and the Dutch southern part (SX). The French northern part seceded from Guadeloupe in 2007.

Note: The newly assigned ISO code ‘BQ’ may cause some issues as it was already in use in the past. Till 1979 it referred to the British Antarctic Territory (codes BQ, ATB) before it was merged with Antarctica (AQ).

Premium Data Subscription

September 13, 2010

GeoNames is launching a Premium Data Subscription as a quality offering for professional users. The Premium Data is released monthly on an annual subscription basis. The first release ‘September 2010′ is now available.

Two approaches are used to find and eliminate errors and inconsistencies. On the one hand all modifications are monitored and sorted by relevance. All relevant modifications are verified and confirmed by a member of the GeoNames team, on the other hand over a hundred consistency checks have been implemented to spot quality problems.
The Premium Data also includes release notes, documentation and additional data files. It is available in csv and rdf format.

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