PAGC Postal Address GeoCoder ( ) is "a library and a CGI based web service written in ANSI C that uses an address-ranged street network shapefile". It uses a rule-based parser based on the Aho-Corasick string searching algorithm. The parser rules are user-configurable, which is nice (although the rule format is NON-user-friendly, consisting of opaque lists of integers!). Exact match, Soundex and Edit distance are used in the matching phase. Supported reference road networks include both the TIGER and the StatsCan networks. BerkeleyDB is used as the reference network data store.
The USC WebGIS Geocoder provides a free, size-limited geocoding service. It claims to be open source, however links to the source code are not obviously provided. It is documented as using a "rule-based parser", but it's not clear how a user could actually customize this and run their own instance. Matching uses attribute relaxation, substring matching, and Soundex. The reference dataset appears to be TIGER, stored in a MS SQLServer database.
The FEBRL Geocoder is a well-researched, well-documented system implemented in Python. It targets Australian road network data. It specifically does not attempt to work with North American data (but suggests that the address models are close enough that this would be possible.) The address parser is unique in using a trainable Hidden Markov Model, and also in being documented by a series of academic papers (e.g.  ) describing the approach in detail. An address cleaning module is supplied. Matching uses exact or "approximate matching".
The OpenGeocoder initiative appears to be a worthy attempt to create a geocoder under the auspices of OpenGeo (possibly as a port of PAGC?). However, this project has not had much recent activity, and doesn't appear to provide any actual code.
One salient aspect of these systems is that they provide address parsing algorithms which are based on well-understood parsing theory. This is of particular interest for our geocoder project - of which more later.
References  A probabilistic geocoding system utilising a parcel based address file; CHRISTEN Peter, WILLMORE Alan, CHURCHES Tim; Data mining : ( theory, methodology, techniques, and applications ), 2006
One of the more interesting projects we have going on here at Refractions is to build a geocoder for use in a crime-mapping application we are developing for a client. We do have an existing geocoder codebase developed for another project. But we're not 100% happy with its performance and customizability, so we decided to look into developing a new library specifically for this project.
Of course the first thing we did was carry out a technology review of all the open-source geocoders we could find. Here's a list of all the ones we looked at:
Geo-Coder-US - A Perl module developed by the ubiquitous Schuyler Erle. "For geocoding US addresses, that is, estimating the latitude and longitude of any street address or intersection in the United States, using the TIGER/Line data set". Probably no longer being developed, since it has been superseded by
GeoCommons Geocoder::US - a rewrite of Geo-Coder-US into Ruby (and also requiring C and SQLite). "Although it is primarily intended for use with the US Census Bureau’s free TIGER/Line dataset, it uses an abstract US address data model that can be employed with other sources of US street address range data"
JGeoCoder - A Java API loosely modelled after Geo::Coder::US. Works against a SQL database loaded with TIGER data (an H2 image is supplied). Last activity in 2008.
Explorer GeoCoder by SRC - A C++ library for "a data and country independent geocoding engine" which can "assign latitude and longitude coordinates to any United States street address or intersection". Has an active mailing list.
Frost Tiger Geocoder by Stephen Frost et al - a Postgres SQL library for geocoding against TIGER data
All of the engines implement parsing and matching logic purely in code. None of them provide a declarative description language to allow easy modification of parsing, standardization, and matching rules. (To be fair, this is bit of a tall order. And it's not clear that it's even possible to provide an understandable declarative language for the fully general case. For example, the ArcMap geocoder (which appears to be the old MatchWare engine) provides a geocoding definition language (actually 5 different ones) - but the languages look scarily complex! Nonetheless, this is an important feature for easy of maintenance and customization.)
JGeoCoder uses a large number of complex regular expressions to perform parsing. This looks like it would be difficult to customize, due to the well-known opaqueness of large REs, and perhaps also to the relative inflexibility of the RE paradigm
The GeoCoder::US Ruby module seems to be the simplest code base. (I ended up almost understanding its parsing algorithm 8^) It uses REs, but in a saner amount. However, it's unclear how well it deals with erroneous input data, and how easy it would be to modify for a different address model.
The Explorer geocoder uses a large amount of fairly complex C++ code. It also looked quite challenging to understand and modify.
In all the projects the parser design appears to be fairly ad-hoc and poorly documented. This situation doesn't inspire confidence that it would be possible to modify the parser to support a different address model, or to handle particular kinds of input errors. (GeoCoder::US is a possible exception to this - it has a relatively simple parsing algorithm with at least some documentation).
In the end we decided not to use any of these projects. I'll talk about what we did do in another post.