If you've always wanted an easy way to get location specific information when out and about with your trusty laptop or netbook, the Mozilla Foundation has your back: enter Geode.
system, currently in the beta stages over at Mozilla Labs, is an implementation of the W3C's Geolocation Specification
– a system whereby web sites are able to request accurate location information from the client that you can then optionally provide. With the ability to use ultra-accurate data sources such as trusty old GPS or the slightly spookier WiFi-based geolocation alongside simple manual entry, the system is already looking promising.
With the W3C specification currently being implemented for Firefox 3.1 alongside the alpha build of Firefox Mobile – codenamed Fennec
– you might be feeling a little left out of the geolocation fun. Fear not, however, as Geode is being implemented as a plugin
for current versions of Firefox and associated browsers.
The use of accurate location information opens up a brave new world of web-based fun – and not just for advertising purposes. Examples given by the Mozilla team include a Food Finder
demo which locates eating establishments within easy walking distance of your current location, and the Pownce
file-sharing social-networking mashup that includes location-aware services. The technology could also see use in ensuring that local news really is
local, and even in customising your home page according to your current location – so you see a different page when you're at home compared to the one you get at work, for example.
Sadly, there are some drawbacks to the plugin version of the technology – discounting the obvious privacy implications should the location information ever be leaked without user consent. The main feature missing from Geode that will be available in Firefox 3.1 is the ability to use a GPS device for ultra-accurate location information: sadly, the Geode plugin is only able to use the much less precise network-based positioning system. Even so, it's a neat toy to be playing with while you wait for Mozilla to finish the real deal.
Can you imagine a killer app for client location-based information on the web, or is it likely to be (ab)used purely for advertising purposes? Share your thoughts over in the forums