They haven't been able to benefit in the same way from the explosion in location-enabled services offered by native apps.
Until now that is, according to Lars Erik Bolstad, VP of Core Technology at Opera Software.
He believes that a new geolocation feature in HTML5, which provides web applications and web developers with the ability to acquire the location of a user's device, will result in more applications being built to run in web browsers.
“These capabilities have existed for some time for native application developers working for high-end devices like the iPhone and the Android platform,” he said.
“By including this in a web browser it's no longer limited to native applications. Actual websites can start using this.
“Adding this capability to a web browser means it becomes much more accessible to developers.”
HTML5 is the latest revision of the HTML standard for structuring and presenting content on the web.
Its full specification is still being worked on by the HTML working group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) - of which Bolstad is co-chair of its Geolocation working group.
But parts are finished and can be implemented in browsers.
Technically the geolocation feature is not part of HTML5 - it's a separate specification that's published by the W3C – but Bolstad said it's accepted that people to use HTML5 as an umbrella term for a whole set of new open web standards.
Bolstad said that in the past it really required close cooperation with mobile operators to get access to location information.
“Having location capabilities in web browsers means it's much easier for anyone to implement some interesting application that makes use of this,” he said.
“This is now becoming so widespread that we can expect to see it becoming a very widely used technology.”
Bolstad said the W3C's location specification has been widely adopted by browser vendors and a number are now shipping with this feature available - both on desktop and mobile platforms.
“It's a capability that can be used today by developers – and they can expect this to be widely supported by devices in the market,” he said.
“This is an interesting new feature to be able to offer in a browser. I know that in the past it's been tricky to deal with anything location-based.
“Those capabilities have maybe been protected by the mobile operators who have been trying to charge money for it, and so on.
“Now the ability to pull location is there – and there for free. There's no cost in acquiring a user's location.”