Update: Mozilla Labs Oct. 7 announced Geode, a geolocation add-on for the Firefox 3 Web browser that will enable developers to create content tailored to users' locations.
Based on the World Wide Web Consortium's Geolocation API specification, Geode leverages Skyhook Wireless' Loki technology to map the Wi-Fi signals in your area to your location, operating both inside and outside with an accuracy of between 10 to 20 meters within a second.
Earlier on Oct. 7 I noted that Geode would allow a user who is looking for restaurants while out of town to load up his or her favorite review site and find suggestions a couple blocks away and plot directions there.
I went on to say I appreciated the idea but if I read one more example of location-based Web services that involve looking for restaurants I'll scream.
"The potential here is for more than just restaurant lookups. For example, imagine an RSS reader that knows the difference between home and work and automatically changes its behavior appropriately. Or a news site whose local section is, in fact, actually local. Or Web site authentication that only allows you to log in from certain physical locations, like your house."
Now Mozilla has my attention. Raskin lists some useful applications of Geode, and invites readers to offer their own suggestions here.
When a Web site requests your location, a notification bar will ask what information you want to give that site, such as your location or nothing at all.
Raskin noted that location and IP information are sent to Skyhook every time a Web site is granted access to your location. Skyhook promises it won't store or use any personal identifying information, and it promises to only keep data in anonymized aggregate.
This privacy recalls similar promises of Fire Eagle, a platform that lets programmers write Web services based on users' locations. Not to be outdone, Google released a Geolocation API for Windows Mobile phones running Google Gears.
Why are browser-based geolocation Web services a big deal? New ReadWriteWeb writer Rick Turoczy takes this stab at it: "By enabling the dynamic localization of information in the browser, Mozilla may be helping users find truly relevant information, and in so doing, may make the Web an even more valuable resource."
I keep hearing all the pros and cons about such services. Frankly, I don't want my phone chirping or vibrating to inform me that there are sales in the store across the street.
Maybe I'm just scared of the sensors Google Android creator Andy Rubin is so gung-ho about. However, I'm keen on smart RSS readers and Web authentication. What do you think of Geode's potential? Drop me a line.