Geolocation makes its home in Firefox with 3.1 beta 1. Companies start taking advantage of it

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Well it didn’t take long for Mozilla to build support for geolocation directly in to the Firefox web browser. Just a week after it officially launched the Geode plug-in for Firefox 3.0, Mozilla today launched Firefox 3.1 beta 1, which eliminates the need for the plug-in. I had a chance to talk with one company that is particularly excited about this functionality, Outside.in, makers of the location-based news and information service Radar.

Up until recently, Radar had been asking its users to manually input their location (via zip code or city name) to gather local news and information around them. With the launch of Yahoo Fire Eagle, things got a little bit easier as the geolocation platform could pull your location from some other service and feed it to Radar. Still, that required your location information come from somewhere else. Now, that information can come right from your web browser.

When Outside.in first saw Geode last week, the team know it was “a perfect fit,” Outside.in co-founder John Geraci told me. The team had been working on other things, but immediately jumped on implementing the geolocation application programming interface (API) and had it working within hours.

Now, if you’re in a city other than your home one with your laptop, you can simply open Radar’s site and be fed local information. And this functionality gives Geraci hope for the future too. He knows that mobile is quickly becoming a widely-used computing platform and while certain devices like the iPhone 3G and other smartphones have location sensing capabilities built-in, not everyone has an iPhone. (Though, Outside.in just finished the Radar iPhone app and it should be out soon.)

When the mobile version of Firefox launches, geolocation will be a part of it and that means access to Windows Mobile devices among others. Outside.in is also evaluating working on Google’s Android mobile platform, which also has location-sensing capabilities, but will watch to see how quickly it catches on first.

Outside.in raised $3 million back in May to expand Radar.

Other services that already work with Firefox 3.1’s geolocation include the social message and file sending service Pownce. Expect a lot more to follow as location continues to become a part of the web with mobile and desktop computing colliding.

Poor Geode, it only lasted a week before it was basically rendered obsolete. (But who knows how long Firefox 3.1 will be in beta.) Mozilla laid out the main difference between the plug-in Geode and the built-in geolocation in last week’s post:

Geode and the Geolocation Services in Firefox 3.1 will use the same W3C API for Geolocation, meaning that the same Javascript code will work in both. The still-in-developement Firefox 3.1 version will allow the user to choose a geolocation service provider, which can either be a peripheral device like a GPS, or a web-based service provider like we’ve used in Geode.


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