Although I can’t find the originator of the saying that there’s no delete button for the internet, it’s a saying that’s very true. If you put something up on a web site, be it a photo, some text or perhaps a file of geographic data there’s a very good chance that someone else has a copy, even if you subsequently take the original down. It’s a sort of digital whack-a-mole.
This is all too apparent in the story of Yahoo’s GeoPlanet Data download. When I was part of the Yahoo! Geo Technologies team, we released a public download of the Yahoo! WOEID data set, under the CC BY 3.0 license, in 2009 at Where 2.0. More about that license in a moment.
As Yahoo! continues to undergo change under the leadership of Marissa Meyer, the current data file and all earlier versions were taken offline. Visit the GeoPlanet Data page on Yahoo’s Developer Network site and instead of a set of download links, you see “We are currently making the data non-downloadable while we determine a better way to surface the data as a part of the service.“.
But the digital mole that is the WOEID data has resurfaced, and versions 7.4 through 7.10 of GeoPlanet Data can now be found on the Internet Archive.
But Yahoo! has taken down the downloads, so how can this happen? That’s where the CC BY 3.0 license comes into play. The Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, to give CC BY 3.0 its full name, gives anyone the right to share the data, in other words to copy, to distribute or to transmit the data, providing users of the data attribute it back to Yahoo! Once issued under such a license, it can’t be revoked; you may choose to issue a new version under a different license scheme or stop issuing new versions entirely, but the earlier versions remain under the original license.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the WOEID and for the GeoPlanet API and data download. Maybe this new availability of the data set will stimulate new usage of WOEIDs. Who knows, the data may even be forked and added to?