Wikipedia Web Services

Over the last couple of weeks a new data extract for the wikipedia web services was implemented and deployed. The major change is certainly the dramatically increased number of geo located wikipedia articles.

A new attribute ‘rank‘ has been added to the xml and json responses. It gives an indication of the popularity or relevancy of an article. The rank is an integer number from ‘1‘ for the least popular articles to ‘100‘ for the most popular articles. It is calculated from the number of links pointing to an article and the article length. The articles are more or less evenly distributed over the 100 ranks.

The ‘elevation‘ field is now filled for nearly all articles, where no elevation could be parsed from the article itself it was enhanced with a reverse geocoded value from srtm3 or aster. The ‘countryCode‘ coverage has also been improved. The attributes ‘population‘ and ‘elevation‘ are no longer set to ‘0’ for unknown values, they are left empty instead.

Iphone vs Android Web Service Usage

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)

Thanks to our sponsors:

Application Identification for free GeoNames Web Services

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

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.

New Countries: Curaçao, Sint Maarten and “Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba”

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

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

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.