Opera and Skyhook Wireless bring geolocation to the Web

Opera and Skyhook Wireless bring geolocation to the Web

This enables users to choose to share their location with any website and obtain a range of information about related products and services around them.

Geolocation was traditionally considered to be only a part of a downloadable mobile application, but Skyhook's Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) enables any computer or mobile phone with a wireless adapter to take advantage of its advanced positioning technology and locate a user, making this service available to any website.

"Effectively, it will allow users to share location with third party sites – very much like the iPhone experience in concept," says Greg Sterling, editor of MobileLocalSearch.net.

"Windows 7 also uses a patchwork of strategies to identify user location. So very soon all the major browsers will have a better or potentially better fix on location (as well as Yahoo!'s Fire Eagle and its developer network)."

Sterling has written several times before about the content and advertising implications of better location awareness at the browser level, saying that lots of customisation and targeting become possible that didn't work with IP-based systems alone.

"These browser-based solutions probably don't totally eclipse IP targeting because, to get location, users will have to explicitly opt-in – which won't work on the fly for ad networks," points out Sterling. "However, once you've opted in at a particular site, and once you return to that site, a cookie could potentially pass your specific location to the ad server for a more locally targeted ad/offer."

He says that while many issues have yet to be worked out in terms of the user experience, the use of cookies and privacy, the bold new world of pervasive online location awareness has arrived.

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