Accuracy of City and Country information in a Geolocalization Database

Many times, in developing websites or web-based applications, we can easily determine the approximate location of the user, and then provide either a version in the local language, or at least determine if the default language, English for example, should be used. But just how accurate is the information available in determining the city and/or country of the website visitor or web-application user? The IP address, which is a unique address of a computer or device connected to the internet, is assigned from the connection provider. This could be, for example, a private ISP, a school or university, a coffee shop, or an internet point. Since IP address are purchased and assigned in “blocks”, accuracy on the city level is never perfect. However, since, in general, internet providers differ by country, accuracy on the country level is very accurate—around 99%.

To answer this question, we took a look at the accuracy data for one of the better-known open format databases for geolocalization, the MaxMind GeoLite City database?

Listed is the number of IP addresses correctly resolved within 25 miles (40.2 Kilometers) of their true location expressed in percentage form.

  • Average among all of the countries in the database 67%
  • Average among top ten countries for tourism spending: 65.6%
  • Germany: 70%
  • United States: 78%
  • China: 66%
  • United Kingdom: 56%
  • France: 62%
  • Canada: 81%
  • Japan: 56%
  • Italy: 54%
  • Russian Federation: 75%
  • Australia: 58%

The local area average accuracy for the entire database is 67%. For the top ten countries where visitors to tourism websites would most likely occur, the average is actually slightly lower than average (65.6%)—this is surprising. Also, the accuracy in Italy, Japan, The United Kingdom, and Australia is very low, just over 50%, but it is not yet known for which reason this occurs. Canada and the United States have the highest accuracy, around 80%.

Malta, Qatar, Singapore, Georgia, Kuwait, Faroe Islands all have over 90% accuracy, which could be more easily explained. They are all rather small countries and/or are islands.

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