Apple and Facebook Put Lesser-Known Factual on the Map

Location-Data Firm Goes Public on New Facebook and Existing Apple Partnerships

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Apple and Facebook are ready to put a lesser-known location-data firm on the map.

When Apple launched its proprietary map application in 2012 after ditching Google Maps for iOS, it was deemed a failure, so much so that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology. Flash forward to today and Apple -- though still competing for dominance with Google Maps -- has bolstered its map capabilities for iOS in part through acquisitions and in part via a partnership with Factual, a location-data firm Apple has worked with for three and a half years to provide local business data on a worldwide basis.

Factual also recently signed Facebook as a client using its regularly updated Places data for U.S. business information that will show up in Facebook Places Search, Business Pages and Check-ins.

The data provided to Apple, Facebook and other clients including Yelp and Bing is the same information employed by Factual to help its advertiser clients build audience profiles for location-based ad targeting. "This is the same data that people use to build geo-fences on," said Vikas Gupta, director of marketing and operations at Factual.

In September 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter of apology for what TechCrunch called "the tragic mess that is Apple's iOS 6 Maps." In short, lots of examples of incorrect data were found by users when the maps application was first released into the wild. Mr. Cook stated he was "extremely sorry for the frustration." To help improve, Apple bought location data firm Locationary and transit data company HopStop in 2013.

In May, Apple extended its contract with Factual.

On the consumer-facing side of things, Factual data includes the information associated with business locations appearing in maps, such as phone numbers and hours of operation. It doesn't include review data.

The U.S. listing data Factual will now provide to Facebook, for example, is the same U.S information it feeds into Apple's system. While Facebook's deal with Factual involves only U.S. business data, Apple licenses data on businesses in 50 countries from the firm.

"It's arming people who don't have Google's capabilities or data to compete with them," said Mr. Gupta. "We're steadily knocking down the list of big companies who aren't Google," he said regarding Factual's clients.

Factual's database is built through "over 5 million sources" and includes information on around 80 million specific business locations, according to Mr. Gupta. Data sources include information harvested through web crawlers, partnerships with companies such as Yext and Placeable that sell online marketing and directory services to small business, and data updates provided by users reporting incorrect information.

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