Comparing the Pros and Cons of 5 Top Location APIs
With the rise of location-based services and apps, the availability of geo-specific data has grown more important than ever. With the recent sale and shuttering of SimpleGeo, a startup that was beginning to turn heads in the geo-data field, many are wondering where to go for the location data they need.
Here are five major services offering similar types of location data feeds. Let us know in the comments if there are other notable services you think we’re missing — or have other thoughts about these companies’ efficacy as SimpleGeo replacements.
Factual is one of the larger platforms offering API data. Its geo-data features 55 million entities from over 50 countries, with 19.4 million from the United States. Besides the sheer amount of information available, one of the advantages of Factual is that they allow easy transfer from those who previously used SimpleGeo.
Dan Tashman, CEO of location-based app Get-A-Game, said he is looking into Factual as a SimpleGeo replacement: “They have set up an easy migration tool from SimpleGeo, are free and could capably extend our current feature set,” he said.
The “free” factor is a big draw for Factual. However, while viewing is free, downloading comes with a price tag. It varies by size of the company and how a company is using the data, but the general price range is a $.10 to $1 CPM-based fee.
According to Eva Ho, of marketing and sales, Factual’s custumers include Newsweek and Loopt, and the company has seen solid growth since the disappearance of SimpleGeo: “We have seen about a 100% increase since SG Places service shut down,” Ho said. “[our customers] are in the thousands and growing.”
Infochimps has a smaller database than Factual, with around 15,000 “public and proprietary downloadable datasets and APIs” — but still has a lot to offer. Infochimps organizes data more specifically, and users are able to search by “Points of Interest,” “Area Demographics and User Location” and “Local Purchasing Behavior,” each containing multiple subsets. This allows a user to zoom in on what will best help their application or business.
Winnie Hsia, marketing manager at Infochimps, said thee service offers not only data, but context, which makes a big difference. “Our thought is that we can give context to the world’s data with geo, social and other datasets/APIs offered on our platform,” Hsia said. “As the world becomes more mobile, location matters even more as the context of where someone is can have a great impact on the content that providers will choose to show. “
Like Factual, Infochimps also has free and priced options. You can access 2,000 API calls per hour without charge, and then there are multiple pricing tiers depending on a user’s demands exceeding that. The prices range from $20 a month for 500,000 calls to $4,000 a month for 15 million.
Tashman said a downside to Infochimps could be instability: “I considered Infochimps, but read they just changed CEOs and I’d like to have confidence in the stability of our next provider so we don’t have to change again 6 months from now,” he said.
With Apigee, not only can a user access all the APIs they need, the site has features that can help one build their own API console and platform as well as tools for understanding and interpreting data. Apigee sorts APIs by companies, allowing users to both upload their own and view others — meaning users can browse through API data from Bing, Foursquare, Facebook and more.
Viewing and building with Apigee is free, but the service also has a priced option called “Apigee Enterprise.” This tool allows enterprises to “expand API channels,” “scale your platform,” “manage OAuth and API keys” and more. Customers using Apigee include Netflix, AT&T, TED and over 200 others, according to their website.
Unlike the other sites mentioned above, Hyperpublic is completely free. The platform offers three major products. “Places +” provides points of interest data, including not only business basics but tags, photos, hours and more. “Geo Deals and Events” allows users to display local deals and events, as well as find them.
Tashman said the “Geo Deals and Events” function was something his company could benefit from using: “I like Hyperpublic’s tie-ins with Daily Deals providers,” he said. “You can filter and pull local deals. For us, filtering sport related Groupon, Living Social and BuyWithMe deals under the same tent as the places provider sounds like a great deal…”
Hyperpublic also has a “Data on Demand” function, which is more of a place for inquiry. Tell Hyperpublic what you need, and if they don’t have it, they will help you find it. However, Hyperpublic boasts that within their own network, they offer all the data a user could need: “We have everything,” the site says. “Need Twitter handles of vegans in the East Village? Done. Millions of display ads referencing places in Chicago? Done. You get the idea.”
While Foursquare has large amounts of venue data, users cannot interact with the site the same way they can with Apigee or Hyperpublic. Tashman said this is a drawback for what he is looking for in an API site: “Foursquare has the most complete venues database, but have limited capability to store/curate geodata within their system,” Tashman said.
Foursquare also has limits on how much access users can have. There is a rate limit set at 500 requests per hour per user, and 5000 requests per hour for venues or userless requests. An appeal can be made if a user goes over that limit, but Foursquare doesn’t currently have a pay-more-for-more-data plan.
Isa Jones is an intern at Street Fight.