Yesterday, Yahoo! launched their Placemarker service. This is a simple RESTful web service (actually it only supports 'POST') that can geo-locate unstructured information such as plain text. Yahoo describe this as "geo-enrichment" rather than true geocoding. The results include the location and location type (eg. a town or country).
Here is a summary description from the Yahoo blog announcement:
What is Placemaker?
Placemaker provides developers with the means to geo-enrich their
content, such as web pages, blog posts, feeds, news articles, status
updates, and their applications which make use of such information.
Placemaker is an open API; it helps developers to make applications and
data sets location aware. Placemaker is not a geocoder, it is a geo-enrichment service that assists in determining the whereness of unstructured content and helps make the Internet increasingly hyper local.
How does Placemaker Work?
1. Developers specify structured and unstructured content; feeds, web pages, news, status articles, etc.
2. Placemaker identifies, disambiguates and extracts places
3. Placemaker returns geographic metadata, which determines the whereness of structured and unstructured content
Further information and send/response samples can be found in the Placemarker Documentation.
Most of the online community has been reporting the Placemarker announcement positively. Adena Schutzberg compares it with MetaCarta's geotagging services, and suspects Placemarker will not be as clever. For example, MetaCarter can translate some natural language and interpret context (eg. is "Paris" in France or Texas?).
We plan to publish an article exploring Placemarker further during the summer months.