With feedback and help from the blogosphere we have updated the geonames ontology and fixed some flaws in the corresponding web service. The ontology now includes linked data such as contains (administrative divisions), neighbours (for features with a boundary) or nearby features. The web service is using two URIs to clearly distinguish between Concept (the thing as is) and Document (the document about it).
Concept vs Document
In the Semantic Web an URL is not just an URL. Four uses of an URL can be identified : the name of the URL, the concept the URL stands for (the thing as is), the web location and the document instance. It is important to clearly distinguish between the concept and the document instance about it. In the Geonames Semantic Web we use these URIs for Berlin:
If you want to express the fact that you are living in Berlin you use the first URI , if you want to make a remark about the information geonames has about Berlin then you use the latter .
The geonames web server is configured to return a 303 (See Other) redirection response for a request of  the URI for the concept and give  as the new location of the document. This is one way how the Technical Architecture Group (TAG) of the W3C has decided to resolve the ambiguity between concept and document and this is also how Tim Berners-Lee has asked us to resolve it. The other accepted way to remove the ambiguity is the use of hashes in the URI.
Wit the new linked data (contains,neighbours,nearby) the toponyms are now interlinked with each other and the geonames semantic web has become a real Web. With over 6 million toponyms there are over 6 million ways to enter the Geonames Semantic Web. However, there is currently not a single way to leave it once you have entered it. It has become a huge “Black Hole“.
A next step will be to add links to other resources in the geospatial semantic web domain. Bernard is involved in the design and development of a Semantic Web implementation for the French National Institute of Statistics (INSEE) and we will link the Geonames Resources with their corresponding resources in the INSEE Semantic Web. It will thus be possible to follow the link from the Geonames toponym to the INSEE.
What other Geospatial Semantic Web Resources should Geonames link to? We are looking forward to your comments.
Thanks to the Geonames Ontology, contributed by Bernard Vatant, all geonames features now have a RDF description for the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web aims to bring structure to the Web and make its content easily readable by machines. The semantic web is sometimes referred to as Web3.0.
The balloon on the geonames map display has received two new menus for ‘perma link’ and ‘semantic web rdf’.
Harry Chen has a good introduction to the Geonames Ontology on the Geospatial Semantic Web Blog. Richard Cyganiak writes in his blog “This is an excellent example of a Semantic Web site done right. Well, almost right …” and in an other posting he describes how to use the Semantic Web URI of a geonames feature with a FOAF file : … it lets me navigate from my profile up the geographical hierarchy from the city of Berlin to the federal state of Berlin to the country of Germany to the continent of Europe.
The Statistical Office of the Swiss Canton of Zurich has contributed a geo data-set to the geonames project with 5347 settlements in the Canton of Zurich. Together with aggregated records this results in the following feature codes :
1941 PPLL (settlements with two to four buildings)
1821 HSE (settlements with only one building)
With this new data-set the number of toponyms in Switzerland is doubling and in the feature statistic country ranking Switzerland jumped from rank 145 to rank 106, just ahead of the Solomon Islands.
We hope this is just a first step and other governmental agencies in Switzerland will follow suit and also release geo-data to the public domain.
On September 27 Geonames has served 1.204.789 web service queries and has crossed the 1 Million web service requests per day mark for the first time.
In September a total of 22.446.111 queries have been served which makes on average ca. 750’000 requests per day. This is an increase of 36% from August with a total of 17.038.682 requests or an average of ca 550.000 requests per day.
The most popular services in September have been :