7 Free Geocoding APIs: Google, Bing, Yahoo and MapQuest

Adam DuVander, June 21st, 2012

Almost every app that uses a mapping API needs some latitude/longitude points. If you don’t already have those “geocodes,” you need to find them, which usually means converting an address to a point on the earth. That’s where you’ll need one of the 54 geocoding APIs in our directory. This post zooms in on seven free geocoders and compares them on features, speed and limits.

For geocoder timing, we checked each API every ten minutes for a week. The address we used was the same for all geocoders. Most had only a single instance of downtime in our week of testing. Google Geocoding API and Cloudmade Geocoding API were the only two with 100% uptime.

In terms of speed, the fastest two were Bing Maps Geocode and Google Geocoding. The following is a run-down on the features and performance of all seven free geocoders.

Bing Maps GeocodeBing Maps Geocode from Microsoft performed well in our tests. The usage limits are unclear in the company’s terms of use, but it appears developers get 10,000 geocodes per month for free. The service requires an API key and has both SOAP and REST (both JSON and XML) versions of the geocoder. There is also a batch API for converting multiple addresses at one time.

CloudMade GeocodingCloudmade Geocoding was by far the slowest in our tests. On the plus side, it’s based on crowdsourced OpenStreetMap data, so you know there’s nobody paying licensing fees. The RESTful service returns data as JSON with no published rate limits.

Data Science ToolkitGeocoding is one of the services within the Data Science Toolkit API, which averaged about a half-second response time in our tests. However, the service is not really meant to be used directly for production. Instead, developers can install the entire unit for free on their own Amazon or VMWare instances. The resulting API is RESTful, with data returned as JSON.

Google GeocodingThe Google Geocoding was just a touch slower than Bing in our tests, putting it in second place. It’s hard to believe that the original Google Maps API launched without any sort of geocoder, which seems like such a necessary mapping tool. While the service requires no API key, it does limit geocodes to 2,500 per day and require that the resulting application show data with a Google Map. The REST API returns data as JSON or XML.

MapQuest GeocodingThe MapQuest Geocoding API is probably the most open among the fast geocoders. It’s unclear whether there are limits for its geocoding API, but MapQuest wants to out-open Google on the maps side, providing unlimited maps for free. Previous statements from the company make it likely that the same is true of its geocoder. There is a batch option that allows up to 100 addresses to be geocoded at once. Like the other popular services, this is REST with JSON and XML.

OpenAddresses GeoLocated Address SearchOpenAddresses Geolocated Address Search API was just shy of averaging a half second per call, which makes it in the slower half of the geocoders. However, like Cloudmade, it uses crowdsourced data, which means it’s the fastest of the geocoders based on free data. However, one downside to OpenAddresses is that it requires you split up your query into city, street and even address number, which makes it harder to accept input from users. Data is returned as JSON or CSV.

Yahoo PlaceFinderYahoo PlaceFinder API is the successor to the company’s previous geocoder API. While it wasn’t as fast as some of the other big names in our tests, it does come with by far the highest published rate limits: 50,000 requests per day. It requires an API key and, unfortunately, the willingness to press your luck. Yahoo has not invested much in geo lately, even shutting down its Yahoo Maps. The Yahoo geocoder returns JSON, XML and serialized PHP.

Tags: Mapping
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5 Responses to “7 Free Geocoding APIs: Google, Bing, Yahoo and MapQuest”

August 16th, 2012
at 12:02 am
Comment by: Google Map Geocoding Tutorial with Example « Zeeshan Akhter

[...] 7 Free Geocoding APIs: Google, Bing, Yahoo and MapQuest (programmableweb.com) 33.718151 73.060547 Zeeshan Akhter's world of Free HelpLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

September 21st, 2012
at 6:27 pm
Comment by: Geocoding with Google

[...] AJAX code that returns the latitude and longtitude results back to the server side for processing.I've been working on a project using the Google maps API recently. I've been using it to return the …some things that you need to be aware of. The first thing is that Google does not want you to use [...]

October 1st, 2012
at 9:42 am
Comment by: A Coder

Yahoo is shutting down its free service on November 17th, unfortunately: http://info.yahoo.com/legal/us/yahoo/boss/pricing/

October 23rd, 2012
at 9:37 am
Comment by: ZorroDeFuego

According to the terms of service from BING – you have up to 100000 API requests PER DAY – just search this page:
http://www.microsoft.com/maps/product/terms.html

Get your facts straight.

Cheers,

October 23rd, 2012
at 11:17 am
Comment by: Adam DuVander

True, if you’ve entered into a Volume Licensing Agreement. The developer accounts, with free access, have 10,000 calls per month. That’s how I read it. API terms are notoriously difficult to decipher.

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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.