Why use the Geotag Icon?

Reason 1: It provides visual homogeneity in meaning

When people use a variety of words in a variety of languages to describe something it can be hard to universally recognize. The same situation exists in the geotagging world. We have ICBM addresses in GeoURL meta tags, Geo Tag Elements, the geo microformat, GeoRSSGMLKML/ KMZ (KML zipped), and probably more—plus a variety of phrases (e.g. “View on map”) and iconography.

A standardized icon helps universal recognition because visually the meaning is the same. Just as the de facto web standard feed icon could be written as any one of RSS, Atom, XML, Feed, Syndicate this, Subscribe here, etc. (not to mention in other languages) the Geotag Icon says “This content is geotagged”.

Reason 2: Visible to machines doesn’t mean visible to people

But it gets worse—because sometimes there are no words or symbols in any human language.

Often geotagging is done using metadata or microformat tags which are designed to be read and interpreted by computers. They are in fact—unless you peek at the code of a web page—completely hidden from human eyes. Consequently it is frequently the case that you won’t know if a particular blog post, or an interesting photo, has been geotagged or not.

The Geotag Icon makes the invisible visible—because if you can’t see it, you can’t find it!

Not using the Geotag Icon would be like having contact metadata in your blog post but no vCard/hCard icon (embedded, or displayed by your reader) so that people know they can add you to their address book.

Reason 3: It is format- and service-agnostic

The Geotag Icon is independent of the format or method used to tag or display the content; it represents a concept rather than a file format (like the KML icon) or service (like a Panoramio icon). You don’t need to know your meta tag from your microformat—just as the Feed Icon encompasses the RSS, RSS 2, Atom, & RDF formats. Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether the icon links to a point on Google Maps, or to Flickr Map—just as the Open Share Icon integrates many bookmarking services. It avoids having to become familiar with a bunch of icons that all mean much the same thing (“Geotagged in EXIF”, “Geotagged in geo microformat and links to Google Maps”, etc.). The icon design itself doesn’t give any special emphasis to any one format or any one service that might make use of the data.

Reason 4: It encourages development of the semantic web

The Geotag Icon is a reminder to netizens everywhere that the quality of the semantic web is enhanced by greater use of mark-up with meaning. People who see the icon and as a result learn about geotagging and begin sharing their data in common syntax can in turn benefit from the interchange of information this allows. For example, “Show me a plot of other bloggers in my vicinity”, or “I’d like to see a map showing which of my friends have also visited Australia”, “Who else has photographed this location?”, etc.

The Geotag Icon reminds people that geotagging is possible, encourages them to try it themselves when they see others doing it (especially when combined with useful links or actions), and adds value by helping them identify that they have done so to others.