Mozilla kicks off location-aware web browser

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This week Mozilla Labs unveiled Geode, a location aware extension to its popular Firefox web browser. Geode uses Skyhook Wireless Wi-Fi positioning system to locate you if you have Wi-Fi embedded into your computer. Web developers can use the available API to make their websites geo-aware for local search or any other application.

Obviously there are some privacy rules applying to disclose people’s location: a pop up is displayed below the browser toolbar to ask you whether you want to be located by the website and offers a choice of accuracy: exact location (around 50 meters with Wi-Fi in urban areas), neighborhood, city or nothing. This setting can be applied automatically for each particular website if the user does not want to re-enter his choice at every connection.

Mozilla kicks off location-aware web browser
Today Geode is only an extension to Firefox, but Mozilla is already preparing the next phase of a future location-aware browser. “Future versions of Firefox plan on supporting the new W3C Geolocation Specification, which adds the native ability for Web sites to request, and you to optionally grant access to, your location”, said Mozilla. “We’re still working out the specifics, but we’re hoping that location will be provided by one or more user selectable service providers and methods, e.g. GPS-based, WiFi-based, manual entry, etc.” The upcoming beta releases of Firefox 3.1 will include this location feature.

Internet giants
Google, with the recent launch of its web browser Chrome and its geolocation API in Gears, is building up the same kind of capabilities. Yahoo! is also entering this field with its location aggregator, FireEagle.

Once the W3C geolocation specifications are final these developments will ultimately lead to a real location aware browsing experience that will in one hand improve the user satisfaction and in the other hand open up a very large market for more targeted advertising.

The good thing for Skyhook Wireless is that Wi-Fi positioning is likely to be the preferred form of location on computers both because Wi-Fi has now become a common feature on most PCs and because GPS positioning offers very poor indoor performance. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see the Internet giants: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, acquiring companies in this field in the near future.

Thursday, October 9th 2008

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