SimpleGeo has recently made their "Places" data set freely available which is GREAT, because now we can use it for our own purposes, even offline. So I went about downloading the 2GB dataset, which contains zipped country files in GeoJSON format.

Here is where my problem begins... when I try loading a country file (*.geojson) directly into QGIS or even converting it to shapefile using ogr2ogr, I end up with just 1 point feature.

Clearly there is more data available in these files that I am not able to "see" or retrieve, so what am I doing wrong? Can someone provide me any suggestions on how to turn these files into useable GIS features?

Updated Question: I really want to convert the geojson file into a shapefile (or similar standard GIS format) for use in a desktop GIS software.

Snippet from SimpleGeo blog on Aug 1, 2011:

"SimpleGeo’s CC0 Places data set is now available for download at no cost. If you’d like to get your hands on 21M+ POIs that cover 63 countries, we’re ready to hand that over to you in one file. The file is about 2GB in .ZIP format, and remember, with the CC0 license, this data becomes yours – free and clear – to do whatever you want. We hope you do awesome things with it! You can download it now by clicking here."

Update: January 12th, 2012: After SimpleGeo was acquired by Urban Airship in Oct 2011, Urban Aiship said “wind down the availability of the current versions of [SimpleGeo's] Places, Context, and Storage over the next few months.”...The target date for pulling the plug officially will be March 31, 2012. Link

  • 3
    +1. Listened to Matt Galligan of SimpleGeo sometime back saying locational data is a matter of fact and should be freely available. It is context which should be sold. Good to see 'they' meant it. Also eager to leverage this data.
    – Erick
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 8:48

3 Answers 3


Try wrapping the features in the following:




and separating each feature with a comma.

For example, here's the first two features from the IE dataset:

{"geometry": {"type": "Point", "coordinates": [-6.422587, 53.293363]}, "type": "Feature", "id": "SG_41u80gC4971D4Gc0Fv1p8q_53.293363_-6.422587@1308163237", "properties": {"website": "http://www.buongiorno.com", "city": "Dublin", "name": "Buongiorno", "tags": ["mobile", "vas", "community", "social-networking", "connected-devices", "android", "tablets", "smartphones"], "country": "IE", "classifiers": [{"category": "Professional", "type": "Services", "subcategory": "Computer Services"}], "href": "http://api.simplegeo.com/1.0/features/[email protected]", "address": "Lake Drive City West Digital Park", "owner": "simplegeo", "postcode": "3050"}}
{"geometry": {"type": "Point", "coordinates": [-6.250848, 53.339347]}, "type": "Feature", "id": "SG_1dnWbWIg8hX3VyfUKIDRz9_53.339347_-6.250848@1308163237", "properties": {"website": "http://www.simchronise.com", "city": "Dublin", "name": "SIMchronise", "tags": ["mobile-solutions", "mobile-data", "data-synchronisation", "mobile-security", "backup", "restore", "mobile-contacts", "web-2.0-addressbook", "phonebackup"], "country": "IE", "classifiers": [{"category": "Professional", "type": "Services", "subcategory": "Computer Services"}], "href": "http://api.simplegeo.com/1.0/features/[email protected]", "address": "78 Merrion Square", "owner": "simplegeo", "postcode": "Dublin2"}}

... and here they are as a GeoJSON FeatureCollection:

{"geometry": {"type": "Point", "coordinates": [-6.422587, 53.293363]}, "type": "Feature", "id": "SG_41u80gC4971D4Gc0Fv1p8q_53.293363_-6.422587@1308163237", "properties": {"website": "http://www.buongiorno.com", "city": "Dublin", "name": "Buongiorno", "tags": ["mobile", "vas", "community", "social-networking", "connected-devices", "android", "tablets", "smartphones"], "country": "IE", "classifiers": [{"category": "Professional", "type": "Services", "subcategory": "Computer Services"}], "href": "http://api.simplegeo.com/1.0/features/[email protected]", "address": "Lake Drive City West Digital Park", "owner": "simplegeo", "postcode": "3050"}},
{"geometry": {"type": "Point", "coordinates": [-6.250848, 53.339347]}, "type": "Feature", "id": "SG_1dnWbWIg8hX3VyfUKIDRz9_53.339347_-6.250848@1308163237", "properties": {"website": "http://www.simchronise.com", "city": "Dublin", "name": "SIMchronise", "tags": ["mobile-solutions", "mobile-data", "data-synchronisation", "mobile-security", "backup", "restore", "mobile-contacts", "web-2.0-addressbook", "phonebackup"], "country": "IE", "classifiers": [{"category": "Professional", "type": "Services", "subcategory": "Computer Services"}], "href": "http://api.simplegeo.com/1.0/features/[email protected]", "address": "78 Merrion Square", "owner": "simplegeo", "postcode": "Dublin2"}}
  • After your posting I realized that I really didn't make my question clear so I edited it. I would really like to convert the data to shapefile or other standard GIS format for use in a desktop GIS. Sorry for the poorly worded question but thanks for the answer @fod. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 14:24
  • 2
    fod's answer will get you half-way there. You will need to pre-process all of these dumps to wrap the features in a FeatureCollection as fod suggested, and separate with commas. Easy way to do it is to replace all newlines with a , + newline (i.e. \n with ,\n), and then enclose in FeatureCollection, either through a script, or manually with a text editor. After you've fixed all the files to be proper GeoJSON, then you can use ogr2ogr v1.8.0 or later to convert GeoJSON to shapefile. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 19:43
  • Excellent! I didn't realize this is what it would take to make them "readable". Using the method described above, I was able to make the file directly readable via QGIS. Thanks a bunch! I used the Mexico dataset as a good sample, because it was only 9k file size. Now to tackle "search & replace" for the US file @ 7.4 GB. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 22:32
  • Apologies - I didn't have time to follow up sooner but FYI you can open GeoJSON files directly in QGIS - no need to convert to shapefile. Then, if you really want a shapefile, you can export the layer in that format (Layer->Save As...).
    – fod
    Commented Aug 20, 2011 at 18:41
  • The first thing I tried was opening up the files in QGIS directly. The problem was that all of the data was "wrapped up" in one record, and therefore one point. I needed to follow the instructions you left above in order for QGIS to recognize each individual feature in the dataset. Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 18:49

Thank you very much to @fod & @Sasa Ivetic for putting me on the right track! I had to put this project down for a while but finally got back to it today and wanted to pass along my results to help out anyone else who may have struggled with this.

Using the information they provided in @fod's answer, I wrote this Python script to convert the dump files in "proper" geojson format. This py script will convert the data into format readable by ogr2ogr, then you can convert it to whatever format you would like.

infile = sys.argv[1]
outfile = sys.argv[2]

## Prepare the input/output for read/write of files
fin = open(infile, 'r')
fout = open(outfile, 'w')

##Prepend the new file with approriate header info
fout.write('{"type":"FeatureCollection","features":[' + '\n')

## Read each line from the input and write to the output
for line in fin:
    ##write each line in the table, and replace carriage returns with "," + carriage return

##Append the new file with approriate footer info

##Close the input and output files to release file locking
  • Note: you may run into trouble converting the converted geojson files via ogr2ogr, because of OS memory limitations. Take a look at this related question: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/16307/… Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 16:52
  • Great ! Microsoft has memory limitations
    – user3120
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 13:21

You could try FME to do this. It reads GeoJSON and writes Shape and - more importantly - has a bunch of "transformers" for handling JSON (JSONExploder, JSONFlattener, JSONExtractor). So I think it would help to get the content out into a usable format.

It also has a free trial available!

NB: I do work for Safe Software, makers of FME.

  • are there some sample workspaces that show how to write from geojson to shp?
    – kflaw
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 17:10

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