Geolocation coming to Twitter and its external applications

The geocoding data will allow the site and its applications to provide new functionality

Twitter is jumping on the geolocation bandwagon, with plans to let users geocode their posts and make the information accessible both on the main Twitter site and through external applications.

Initially, Twitter will release to its external developers a preview of a new geolocation API (application programming interface), which will let developers attach geographic metadata to "tweets," the company announced Thursday in a blog post.

"Developers will have access to this new geolocation feature early which means it will most likely be available on your app of choice before it's available on Twitter's web site. Later, we'll add it to our mobile web site and Twitter.com as well," wrote Twitter cofounder Biz Stone.

Until now, location information has been available to external developers, but via a "rudimentary" API that uses the location information Twitter users add to their profile.

"Since anything can be written in this field, it's interesting but not very dependable," Stone wrote.

When the new geolocation functionality is implemented, end-users in all cases will have to opt in to append latitude and longitude coordinates to their posts.

"If people do opt-in to sharing location on a tweet-by-tweet basis, compelling context will be added to each burst of information," Stone wrote.

"For example, with accurate, tweet-level location data you could switch from reading the tweets of accounts you follow to reading tweets from anyone in your neighborhood or city -- whether you follow them or not. It's easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake."

The geolocation functionality will allow developers to deliver "more meaningful and localized experiences" to their applications' users, wrote Ryan Sarver, a member of the Twitter application platform support team, in a discussion forum for Twitter developers.

"We are also really excited about a unique facet of this release in that it will be API-only initially. This means that Twitter.com won't surface the functionality and we look forward to seeing the new and interesting experiences that will grow out of the ecosystem," Sarver wrote on Thursday.

Developers can expect to soon see a "Geolocation Best Practices" guide from Twitter that will address key geolocation API topics like security and privacy.

"The guide will create a framework from which we can address the challenges that come about when dealing with something as sensitive as someone's location while hopefully allowing everyone enough creative freedom to create their own experiences around it. It is important to note that the feature is going to be strictly opt-in. It will be disabled until a user chooses to switch it on," Sarver wrote.

There is no specific date set yet for the official release of the geolocation API.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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