Pity the poor postcode, for years, he’s been locked up in a basement at the Royal Mail offices, and only let out if someone pays a humungous fee to let him out.
Well, thanks to the mysterious Ernest Marples, the postcode has been let out of his cell and is free to run about, jump and play and be used in all sorts of useful applications.
The Ernest Marples API allows you to enter a postcode and get a latitude and longitude, allowing web-based applications to get a user’s location from their postcode.
But how are they going to get away with this? Well, my theory is (and I’ve not spoken to anyone involved in the project to confirm this) that as long as it’s only used by volunteer / non-profit projects, then the Royal Mail ain’t gonna do diddly squat. They’re not losing any revenue by sites of this nature doing this because the sites couldn’t afford to pay for the postcode database anyway. Besides, although the Royal Mail is effectively a private enterprise, the major shareholder is still the government, and I can’t see them risking the bad publicity that would be caused by being heavy-handed and taking the site down.
However, I do think there are risks in putting this data out there, although the Royal Mail might not be bothered by non-profit sites using this data, they might be bothered by corporates (who would otherwise be paying) using it. Therefore I think the best way forward would be to make the API private - get developers to sign up for an API key and let ‘Ernest’ know how they’re planning to use it. That way, for profit sites don’t get a look in.
It’s certainly exciting though, and my best wishes go out to ‘Ernest’. I shall watch the future with interest!