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Location Formats


This is a list of previous efforts at location / geographic ("Geo") data formats and protocols, as background research for developing a location format.

vCard & hCard

vCard (RFC2426) and hcard includes 'adr', a way to markup addresses. There is also a field called 'geo' for lat/long.


UPU S42 is a standard for representing postal addresses. UPU, the Universal Postal Union, is the consortium of all national posts. See UPU S42 Announcement. xNAL, the XML Name and Address Language, is an earlier attempt to standardize on the components of addresses developed by OASIS, a consortium of business-process weenies. The distinction between vCard/hCard and S42/xAL/xNAL comes down to whether the address line elements themselves are decomposed. For example, in xNAL you can specify components like street number, street prefix directional, street name, street type, street postfix directional, subaddress type (Suite), subaddress number.

It is not always possible to conclusively determine these components from an address line, even in the US where addresses are more canonical than others. "A 4TH ST W STE 10" is a legal address line in the US. The street number and name are required (in the US) so this could be canonically decomposed as streetnumber="A", streetname="4TH", streettype="ST", postdirectional="W", subtype="STE", subtypenumber="10".

UPU S42 and OASIS xNAL standards are likely overkill for tagging general web content. However, they are important standards that should be considered in web-services involving both geocoding and reverse-geocoding. Perhaps standards related to decomposed addresses is something that should be placed on another page.

In addition, there should be pointers to national address standards.

USPS publishes a complete list of canonical abbreviations for both streettypes and subtypes. Their publications are self-inconsistent, but it is easy to infer the correct mappings.

New Zealand apparently adopted a variant of xNAL NZ xNAL Guidelines Release 1.0.


Comma seperated list of lat/long <meta name="ICBM" content="XXX.XXXXX, XXX.XXXXX"> [1]

This is incorrect. It is one pair, not a list.


Flickr Geotags



A2B is a location based search engine. Lat and long only. Seems to pick stuff up from geo meta tags. Pages can either be manually entered or pinged. They support lat/long and ICBM meta tags.


Several people have tried putting geographic information into RSS.


Both of these systems are freely available sources of address to lat/long mappings (US only). I think they're based on US Census data, so they might be up to date.


Plazes is a system that does geo-info based on the network access point that the user's computer is connected to. They use tagging to identify locations.

Mapping Sites

Semantic Web


Geographic Markup Language - a "600 page standard"


Google Earth XML

20050629 at Where 2.0 conference:

"Google Earth has an XML schema for describing a place on the earth. Will be releasing today or tomorrow." 
  - John Hanke of Google/Keyhole.

Reverse engineered here today...

Google Maps API

Yahoo Maps API


Open Geospatial Consortium


Web Coverage Service


Standard and Proprietary NMEA Sentances


Geo:Coordinates in Wikipedia Project

What People are Publishing

Other Formats

(move these into lists near top of document)

location-formats was last modified: Wednesday, December 31st, 1969