Flickr does Geotagging

I’m a little slow in reporting this since I’ve been away on holiday, but Flickr have announced that geotagging is now one of their built-in features.

Geotagging within Flickr

This is a great move, since it can be quite daunting if you’re really into knowing (and seeing) where photos were taken, but don’t want to move over to rival Zooomr, or delve into some of the arcane geotagging browser extensions or 3rd party tools. It’s all done within Flickr’s Organizr, and it’s all drag and drop. You can even set levels of accuracy, i.e. associating photos with whole cities, or even down to street level.

Whilst this is great, it’s not actually that great if you live outside of the USA. Yahoo’s mapping for the UK, for example, is very basic. Angular lines mark major roads and railways, and that’s about as good as it gets (unless you want satellite photos of London).

So what do I do to geotag my photos on Flickr? I use the Localize Bookmarklet which was created by the talented aemkei, which uses Google Maps (which has excellent UK coverage). You simply drag the bookmarklet link to your bookmark bar (and rename it to something like “Flickr Geotag”). That’s it. When you’re viewing a photo in your photostream, simply click the bookmark, and the photo will be replaced with a Google map. Navigate to the spot where your photo was taken, and click. That’s it. Hit save, and the geotags will be inserted to your tag list, and a link to Google maps showing the location of the photo will be appended to your description.

At the moment (5th September 2006), this doesn’t add the photo directly into Flickr’s geodatabase, so you have to import them manually (thankfully, it imports all your newly geotagged photos in one go), by following this link (or access it from “Your Account“).

One imported, Flickr will show where the photo was taken as text, e.g. “Taken in London, England (map)” with a link to a Yahoo map which floats above Flickr when clicked. This is on the lower right of the screen, above the date and camera model information.

One observation is that the spatial database behind this all must be pretty powerful. This photograph of a butterfly was taken within the grounds of a medieval park, close to Salisbury in the UK. I geotagged it some time ago using the bookmarklet, and Flickr imported the coordinates when I did my first import a few days ago. I noted that Flickr shows that the photo was “Taken in Clarendon Park, England”. The underlying Yahoo engine (anyone know what it’s called?) has perfomed a spatial query and identified that the photo was taken within the boundary of the park. The fact that it’s a relatively obscure historical deer park reveals that Yahoo’s spatial database must be rather detailed, and the engine that powers it, rather powerful.

It makes me think (and hope) that improved mapping for the UK is just around the corner…

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One Response to Flickr does Geotagging

  1. Eduardo Manchon 6 September, 2006 at 10:38 am #

    Flickr geotagging interface is brilliant, but Yahoo Maps coverage for most of the World is very poor. This is a important issue because Flickr’s geotagging interface is not designed for accuracy, but for massive geotagging, what it is perfect for some people, but not for others.

    If you prefer Google Maps for mapping your photos via drag and drop interface and you care about accuracy, our project, Panoramio, may be interesting for you. Btw, you can later watch the photos in Google Earth KML feed, a much better experience than web based maps.

    Eduardo