Google launches "plus codes": open geocodes for locations that don't have street addresses

In much of the world, addresses are difficult to convey because they refer to locations on unnamed streets, in unnumbered buildings, in unincorporated townships, sometimes in disputed national boundaries (I have often corresponded with people in rural Costa Rica whose addresses were "So-and-so, Road Without Name, 300m west of the bus stop, village, nearest town, region").

Google has unveiled Plus Codes, a relatively easy-to-express set of geocodes for referring to any location on Earth (especially locations that have ambiguous addresses), initially rolled out for use with Google Maps in India after a successful test in Cape Verde, where the codes are being used by the postal service.

Google's materials stress that Plus Codes are "open source," and the core libraries are on Github under the Apache License, which grants any patent rights and permits downstream users to enclose their derived works under proprietary licenses.

Plus Codes use a four-character prefix as an "area code," defining a 100km^2 region; the remaining six characters narrow the location down to 14m^2; for additional precision, a single additional character narrows the location to a 3m^2 region.

Plus Codes are independent of national boundaries, and can be overlaid on existing digital or paper maps, allowing them to work offline. Google is also proud of using the "+" symbol in the code, continuing on its ill-starred project to repurpose the common meaning of a plus (in search terms, a plus historically denoted that results must include the term), something that started with its catastrophic effort to create Google+, a social network that the company spent years aggressively integrating into all its products, despite vast indifference and slightly less vast hostility to the system.

Plus Codes [Google]

Searching for Indian addresses on Google Maps gets better; Plus Codes -- a simple location-based digital addressing system; Voice Navigation in six additional Indian languages [Suren Ruhela/Google India Blog]

Google’s new ‘Plus Codes’ are an open source, global alternative to street addresses [Abner Li/9 to 5 Google]