Since the major search engines have opened up their mapping tools to programmers, geocoding has become an essential step in the process of building many a mashup.
Geocoding is the process of converting human-readable place data — a city name, ZIP code, or address — to latitude and longitude points that can be easily plotted on a map.
Yahoo’s HTTP Geocoder API is easy to use, and its output is easy to incorporate into your applications. This article will describe its features and show some examples of how to access the results.
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The microblogging site with the funny name is one of the hottest web services around.
Twitter is one of those websites with very little room for functional nuance. Its limit of 140 characters per post forces users to be succinct, something that makes many people feel over-constrained and leads them to view the service as too simple to actually be useful. Others see unbridled freedom inside such a unique limitation and embrace it like a poetic device. The lesson: You either get Twitter or you don’t.
Regardless of how you feel about it, if you’re looking to try out an API for the first time, Twitter is a great place to start.
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Online maps are a popular way to spice up a site. To get the most use out of them, you need data to plot: addresses from a database, location clicks from the user or at least coordinates for the map’s center. With any map, you have to start somewhere.
If you’re low on data, you can fill in the map with local listings, such as those you’d find in the Yellow Pages. You can show coffee shops or pizza joints right along your other data, or even on its own.
In this tutorial I’ll show how to use Yahoo Local to search for nearby businesses and landmarks, then plot those locations on a Yahoo Map using the Ajax API.
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The application program interface (API) is a set of building blocks for programmers.
APIs are made up of routines, protocols, and tools. Most operating environments provide an API so that programmers can write applications consistent with that environment. For example, developing software using the Windows API ensures that your user interface will be consistent with other Windows applications, making it easier for users to learn your new programs.
Use on the Web
Web APIs provide simple ways to interact with websites. Using an API, you can extract public data from sites like del.icio.us, Flickr and Digg to create mashups, reuse data or just about anything else you can imagine.
APIs are also useful for extracting your own private data from a web service so that you can back it up elsewhere or display it on another site.
When talking about APIs you’ll here the following terms quite a bit.
Common Web API Related Terms
- Web service/API — These terms are largely interchangeable and simple refer to the ways you can interact with the data on your favorite websites.
- Method — A method is just one aspect of an API; you might also see methods refered to a functions. For instance, if you’re interacting with Flickr, you might want to get your public photos. To do so you would use the get_user_photos method.
- Response — The information returned by the API method that you’ve called.
- REST — Short for Representational State Transfer. REST treats data as a web document that lives at a specific URL. REST APIs use standard HTTP requests such as GET, PUT, HEAD, DELETE and POST to interact with data.
- XML-RPC — This older API scheme formats method calls and responses as XML documents which are sent over HTTP.
- SOAP — Simple Object Access Protocol. A W3C standard for passing messages across the network. SOAP is the successor to XML-RPC. It’s complexity has led many to disparage SOAP and with more APIs leaning toward REST, SOAP’s future is uncertain.
Popular Web APIs
It seems every mapping website has an API these days. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Mapquest… how do you choose? With Mapstraction, you don’t have to.
To help you on your way to using Mapstraction, we’ll simply create a map we can display on a web page, and then add a marker to denote a particular location.
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