WikiMedia Foundation Releases GeoData For Geotagging Wikipedia

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 31, 2013

The WikiMedia Foundation has added a new extension to MediaWiki, the foundation for Wikipedia, that adds geographic data for individual wiki articles. Aimed primarily at mobile users, GeoData will make finding information about your present location easy and fun.

According to WikiMedia, GeoData aims to codify the common practice of adding geographic data to articles.

Coordinates added to articles are now stored separately in the database, as opposed to being stored arbitrarily in wiki markup. This makes it easy to query the coordinates of a particular page or a list of pages around a given set of coordinates. The Solr search engine is used for spatial queries, making the searches extremely fast. All the functionality is also available via the API, allowing developers to create tools that use this data.

Previous geographic data was added to the “Infobox” code block, like this example for the Wikiepedia page on Flathead Lake:

	{{Infobox lake
|lake_name = Flathead Lake
|coords = {{coord|47|54|6|N|114|6|15|W|region:US-MT_type:waterbody|display=inline,title}}
|cities =

GeoData has a slightly different syntax:


However, the two coordinate systems are similar enough that it is plausible that they will both be used, the existing coord system to integrate with Geohack, and the new GeoData system for finding articles close to where the reader is.

The new coordinates system will take a bit of work to have it integrated into existing articles.

The {{#coordinates}} tag needs to be inserted into the template used for geotagging (example change), and the job queue will process the pages that use it. … It’s also recommended to create a tracking category to which GeoData will add pages with invalid coordinates. The name of this maintenance category can be localized by editing the MediaWiki:Geodata-broken-tags-category system message.

My initial thoughts are that, while I am generally against mobile location data being accessible in the cloud, I trust Wikipedia enough that this doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I think that this will be a great addition to the service. I can imagine sightseeing and finding out about other interesting sites that I may have missed out on otherwise.

If you would like to start testing this new ability out, you can get ready for it by turning on experimental mode in the Wikipedia mobile site.