Firefox 3.5 Brings Geolocation to Mass Users

July 2, 2009 at 1:55 PM 1 comment

Firefox 3.5 has shipped with location finding turned on: The latest release of Firefox includes by default the option to use a computer’s IP address and, if available, a scan of nearby wireless networks to provide a location to Web sites that use appropriate JavaScript to request a position. Users can opt out when asked, disable location requests for a site, or disable location requests entirely. However, “ask for permission” is on by default.

Firefox is using Google Location Services, which is a combination of cellular tower data that the company has assembled along with some unknown method of collecting and locating Wi-Fi hotspots, much as Skyhook Wireless has been doing for years. Likely, Google gathers this information as it drives the streets for Google Maps.

Mozilla’s location mascot

With several tens of millions of smartphones (iPhone and Android-based models mostly) and handhelds (almost entirely the iPod touch) providing location data through various combinations of Wi-Fi, cellular trilateration, and built-in GPS, getting a location instantly may not seem that interesting any more on the desktop or laptop.

But it still seems to have a place. Location has two purposes. One is to find oneself, an existential proposition if I ever heard of one, because you don’t know where you are. But the other is to identify your location to someone else because you want them to know where you are for some purpose: personal, commercial, or otherwise.

In the latter category, having location built into a browser lets Web sites offer rich location data even when you’re at home. Aren’t you frustrated about having to type in repeatedly your street address for work or home to find something in proximity, such as with a store locator? Wouldn’t you like to have Web applications that automatically took advantage of your location by providing relevant data you didn’t need to look up separately? (There are already plenty of utilities for Mac OS X and Windows that can use location to system-wide settings, such as backlighting, r to launch or quit programs, or change your instant messaging status.)

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Entry filed under: Mobile Tech & Trends, Web News & Trends. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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