At the end of last May, Yahoo released an experimental version of Placemaker, a “geo-enrichment” platform. What it does is help developers make applications location-aware by identifying places in unstructured and atomic content (think RSS feeds, web pages, news, status updates etc.) and returning geographic metadata for geographic indexing and markup. In layman’s terms: it can detect places by scanning content and is capable of putting the aggregate data on a map.
While Placemaker does not serve as a geocoder and thus does not perform address recognition on street-level, it is perfectly capable of geo-extracting and indexing documents or atomic units of text, giving third-party developers the means to mark-up and index Web content geographically in a globally-aware, locally-relevant, and language-neutral manner (and Geo Microformats-compatible, too). But the process of parsing the data could sure have been made a lot easier, and if you weren’t a developer there wasn’t really any use for the tool at all.
Enter GeoMaker, a fresh project by the hands of Yahoo developer Chris Heilmann that aims to make the whole process more user-friendly. Now it just takes three easy steps to copy-paste content either by directly entering data or by fetching it from a Web address and create a map based on the places the underlying software can identify. It even comes with its proper API.
To see it in action, jump to this non-embeddable Flickr video that shows you how it works.
To test it, I entered the URL for a post I wrote yesterday about the apparent geographical differences in terms of level of engagement with social networking services. I don’t have access to a free map developer key, or I would have been able to replace the YMAPPID in the embed code with the key and embed the map, but here’s a screenshot of how it came out:
I can see a couple of uses for this, but it’s worth noting Christian is asking for feedback at this stage, which he intends to use to refine and improve GeoMaker prior to making it available as an open-source project on GitHub.
(Hat tip to Programmable Web)