It's true. The data we provide through our web service of largely public domain.

So why would you want to use our web service rather than your own database?

There are advantages to using your own database rather than a web service:

  • Doesn't rely on an external service being online: If was to crash or go out of business completely, then this could have an impact on your own site's functionality. We've thought about that, and have put in some measures to mitigate against this, including bullet-proof hosting and plain text local storage options. It's a legitimate concern, but one that we think we've addressed pretty well.
  • I object to paying for non-proprietary data: We'd argue that you're not paying for the data itself, but the service and convenience of it being updated, built-upon and served to you using easily-implemented code, saving you time and energy. We've provided a fuller explanation here: Why pay for public data.

But there are many reasons to use our web service:

  • Your data is kept up-to-date: The world keeps changing, and places and their names pop in and out of existence. Populations change. Keeping this up-to-date is a real challenge, but it's a challenge that we'd like to take on in order to save you the effort (but you can help with this).
  • We give you room to grow: Our data stores hold much more than just place names. We have very rich data related to locations around the world. You may just want a few dropdown lists at the moment, but if you decide that you'd like to do something clever like ordering your locations by their relative populations then all you have to do is add some parameters to your request.
  • We're backwards compatible and keep you informed: We're continually updating our data, but you never need to worry about your local data becoming out-of-synch with ours. All legacy key references are maintained, so if a city changes its name, the old name will no longer appear in our lists, but your stored data can still retrieve the old name from our servers. And if you want to update your local records, we can provide guidance.
  • You can try us on for size for free: It'll cost you nothing to see if it works for your circumstances. The vast majority of users won't need to pay for the service at all! 

So, in short: It's quicker and easier to use our web service than implement your own datasets, the data you see will be up-to-date and always available.