If you work with international GIS data you know how important it is to have standards for place and region names. Many governments maintain stability in place names so they rarely change but there are always plenty of exceptions. Furthermore, spellings often have variations based on translations and dialect making it difficult to put an official name to a place, let alone have it be uniform across multiple applications.
Thankfully, there is the GEOnet Names Server (GNS) maintained by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The GNS contains over 5 million geo-located features and more than 8 million feature names. Updated weekly, the GNS database provides its data through several means including an OGC web map service graphical interface, a text-based interface and a data download page.
|NGA’s Name server viewer|
So, whether you are designing and building an international geodatabase or you are just interested in place names, the GNS is the authoritative place to go. Bear in mind that the GEOnet Names Server is only for locations outside the United States. For official names within the United States see the US Board on Geographic Names.