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.

Thanks to our sponsors:

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).

GeoNames Ontology 2.2

September 29, 2010

Version 2.2.1 of the GeoNames Ontology has been released. Navigation within the administrative hierarchy has been made easier with the addition of the GeoNames URIs for the parentCountry and the parentADM(1-4) divisions. The proprietary names are now subproperties of the standard rdfs:label and skos:altLabel.

The properties ‘nearby’ and ‘neighbour’ have been implemented inline within the feature document for the Premium Data Subscription.

Changes:

  • add and use ‘gn’ namespace gn=”http://www.geonames.org/ontology#&#8221; for GeoNames Ontology properties
  • add namespace rdfs=”http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#&#8221;
  • add new property rdfs:isDefinedBy
  • change proprietary property gn:name to be subproperty of rdfs:label
  • change proprietary property gn:alternateName to be subproperty of skos:altLabel
  • new gn:officialName for alternate names with ‘isPreferred’ flag
  • new gn:shortName for alternate names with ‘isShort’ flag
  • new parentCountry
  • new parentADM(1-4)
  • implemented ‘nearby’ (within the document, only available with the Premium Data Subscription)
  • implemented ‘neighbour’ (within the document, only available with the Premium Data Subscription)

7. Oct Update: The current version is 2.2.1 and fixes some issues with name properties in v2.2. Version 2.2 is deprecated.

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.

Sponsoring GeoNames

August 30, 2010

GyreoNames is looking for sponsors as the cost for servers and bandwidth is increasing. We had got an additional server for the download/dump  and we had to reduce the max number of allowed credits on the free services to cope with the growing number of requests.

GeoNames Sponsors are listed on the high ranking donation page with logo and link.

Benefits for Sponsors:

  • Logo and link on sponsors/donation page
  • Helps cover costs for running the project
  • Ensures the sustainability and health of the project.
  • Provide funding to improve consistency, fix errors and add missing data

MyTrip

UK open public data

April 19, 2010

Ordnance Survey, the British national mapping agency, has released open data at the beginning of this month. This is a 180 degree change for Britain. It used to have one of the most restrictive public data policies and hardly any official geo data was available. The new British open data policy is one of the most liberal policies worldwide and we can hope that other countries, in particular in Europe, will also understand the importance of unrestricted access to public data and adopt similar open policies.

The data is not only called ‘open’ it really is open. Unlike other ‘open data’ projects that use unopen share-alike licenses,  the OS OpenData is available under a so called ‘OS OpenData License‘, which is aligned and interoperable with the creative commons attribution license.

Of interest for GeoNames are several datasets:

  • 1.7 million postal codes (code-point)
  • 1:50’000 Gazetteer (260’000 toponyms)
  • admin boundaries

It will take some time and work till we can make optimal use of the data. The existing ‘outcode’ based postal codes have already been replaced with the new data. On the free ws.geonames.org server the postal code webservices (reverse and search) are now returning the full 1.6 million postalcodes. The dataset does not include postal codes for NIR, IM, GY and JE. For those regions we continue using the previous data.

The postal code dump directory now contains two files for GB, the default file with the outcodes and an additional file with the full postal codes. It is not yet clear whether we should continue with the outcodes or replace them entirely with the full codes. What do you think? Please comment your ideas and requirements below.

In order to use the admin boundaries we will have to clean up the existing admin divisions and align them with the Ordnance Survey divisions.

The gazetteer unfortunately only has a very high level ‘feature code’ and for the majority of the toponyms the feature code is missing entirely (X).

fcode | count
-------+--------
X | 128662 (all other features)
O | 41228 (other)
FM | 34723 (Farm)
W | 24425 (Water)
H | 14524 (Hill or mountain)
F | 8708 (Forest or wood)
A | 5252 (antiquity non-roman)
T | 1259 (town)
R | 237 (roman antiquity)
C | 62 (city)

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