Facebook’s Places Graph makes 140 million locations available to developers for free
The available content includes business address, lat-long, hours, likes, check-ins, ratings, photos and more.
During this morning’s Facebook developer conference keynote — which was mostly about augmented and virtual reality and Messenger — the Places Graph was mentioned only in passing. It’s part of the Graph API, and the company has been using its location and places data internally and on Instagram and Messenger for some time.
This is the first time third-party developers will be able to access the data. It’s also free, almost regardless of usage or scale, according to the company:
We’re providing free access to over 140 million places around the world, the same data that powers Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. We’ve created Search, Current Place, and Place Information endpoints, so you can find places relevant to your users and provide helpful information about each location. The Places Graph ties query limits to the size of your customer base and is integrated with the Facebook SDK so that it’s easy to get started and scale quickly.
The offering is probably most directly competitive with Foursquare’s Venues Database, rather than Google Maps API. That’s because there’s no maps UI with Facebook’s Places Graph. However, a developer could marry something like Mapbox and the Places Graph and create something pretty interesting.
The Places Graph features most of the content and data on every Facebook Page for which there is a physical location, globally. That includes address, lat-long, hours, likes, check-ins, ratings, photos and more.
Facebook, for whatever reason, has so far declined to build a coherent local search and discovery experience. It has a number of entry points and surfaces local business and location content in different ways. And though it has recently boosted category search (e.g., sushi, current location) it hasn’t publicized any of this very broadly.
Hypothetically, a developer could take Facebook’s own data and build the “Places” app that I’ve been anticipating for years. I asked company representatives about this, and they said there’s nothing that would prevent it. Asked why Facebook was opening up its Places data, they told me that developer partners would envision new use cases and generally help “improve the product.”
While significant in itself, the Place Graph fits into the larger Facebook effort (reflected in this morning’s AR announcements) to bring the physical and digital worlds closer together.