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What is it?
iBegin Source is a wiki for local business data that is similar to the YellowPages, but offers licenses of it’s data.
They currently have close to 11-million businesses in their database, and since they are a wiki, are constantly growing that number.
To test just how complete their data was, I asked a friend on AIM to tell me first what State he lived in, then City, then I asked him to name a business or place he regularly frequents, and there it was on iBegin Source: Ropewalk Tavern in Baltimore, Maryland. It even has a map provided by Google Maps.
Why Use It?
The applications for this data may not be apparant at first, but I believe the point is that all this data is dynamic. Once downloaded, it can thus be used and presented in any way seen fit. For example, the data can easily be integrated into any existing design or layout.
But more importantly, it can be used in a site as an additional feature. For example, somebody who owns a site about their local city could download the database for their local city and then show all the local restaurants on a restaurants page. Or if the webmaster is program-savvy, he could come up with an even more elaborate way to use the data such as including it into their search engine data.
Data is downloaded in a zipped format (bzip2), and then presented as CSV (Comma separated values), only instead of commas, they are actually separated by pipes. Here are 3 examples:
1|12th & L Bed & Breakfast|1001 W 12th Ave|Anchorage|99501||0|Bed & Breakfast Accommodations|http://www.anchorage-lodging.com||1169576311|1169576311|||
2|15 Chandeliers Bed & Breakfast|14020 Sabine St|Anchorage|99516||0|Bed & Breakfast Accommodations|||1169576311|1169576311|||
3|16th Avenue Apartments||Anchorage|99501||0|Apartments|||1169576311|1169576311|||
This data can then be parsed using simple Reg Ex (where it’d be recommended to put into a structured database such as MySQL).
The format is as follows:
ID (this is constant between different dates. It is unique only for the specific state)
Phone (commercial only)
Time Added (timestamp)
Time Last Updated (timestamp)
Latitude (commercial only)
Longitude (commercial only)
Major Intersection (commercial only)
The price isn’t cheap. While they’ve recently made a huge drop from charging as much as $350,000, a commercial license is only $1000 for a state or $40,000 for the entire USA. They claim that other data brokers can cost more than $500,000.
A downfall that I can spot right away is that there seems to be no option to purchase data on a city level. Instead, you’d have to purchase the data for an entire state at $1,000. If a city only cost $100, then I can actually see a lot of use for this data for a lot of people.
Data is updated constantly (daily, weekly, and monthly data updates) and commercial licenses include geocoded addresses.
However, it’s absolutely free for non-commercial usage, such as non-profit groups. However, non-commercial sites must still link back to iBegin Source. Any page that uses data from the download must contain a visible link to iBegin Source.
iBegin Source‘s website is very nice and clean and takes great pride in supporting web usability and accessability standards. It’s extremely fast and has great usability.
However, it’s missing a very important factor: information.
While starting this review, I had absolutely no knowledge what their site was all about. While they have a What is iBegin Source? page, it only gives a pathetic 4 lines of extremely vague descriptions.
They need to definitely elaborate on what exactly they offer as well as try to sell it to the user. I’m still wondering why one woudl want to purchase such data.