Mozilla Labs introduces Geode


Mozilla Labs has announced that future versions of Firefox will support the new W3C Geolocation Specification, which adds the native ability for websites to request, and for you to choose to grant access to, your location.

In order for this to work, your browser needs to know where you are. While Mozilla is still working out the specifics, the company hopes that location will be provided by one or more user-selectable service providers and methods, e.g. GPS-based, WiFi-based, manual entry, etc.

Geode is an early implementation of the W3C Geolocation specification to enable developers to begin experimenting with enabling location-aware experiences using Firefox 3, and users can report back to Mozilla Labs saying what they think of the experience it provides. It includes a single experimental geolocation service provider so that any computer with WiFi can get accurate positioning data.

The potential here is for more than just POI lookups. For instance, an RSS reader that knows the difference between home and work could automatically change its behaviour appropriately. Or a news website that loads news relevant to your location. Or website authentication that only allows you to login from certain physical locations, like your house.

With Geode, when a web site requests your location, a notification bar will ask how much information you want to give that site: your exact location, your neighbourhood, your city, or nothing at all.

Mozilla Labs says its using Skyhook's Loki technology to map the Wifi signals in the user's area to his location. While location and IP information is sent to Skyhook everytime a website is granted access to a user's location, Skyhook's privacy policy states that data is anonymously aggregated and no personal identifying information is stored or used.

The ultimate plan for Firefox is that service providers and geolocation methods will be pluggable and user selectable – giving users the power to dictate their own privacy options.

However, the announcement of Geode seems to have unleashed a torrent of indignant responses from Firefox users, many of whom would prefer it to remain an optional plug-in rather than part of the core browser, and others who suggest that browsing might one day reach a point where a website will refuse to load unless you tell it where you are.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *