Mozilla Labs previews Geode

Mozilla Labs is previewing their upcoming Geode concept. Their recently launched Concept Series is Mozilla’s “idea sourcing” effort to reach out to the creativity of the masses, something that is starting to manifest itself in more and more company intranets as one of the ways of “corporatizing”  WEB 2.0 paradigms of community and collaboration (IBM just launched their BlueHouse social/collaboration SaaS platform for the business community). Geode’s intention is to enable a firefox plugin that would allow web apps (representing me the user) to interact with the omniscient web in a location aware way.

Rather than having dedicated native apps that is dependent on the location APIs of the host device, now web apps (with user’s consent) can rely on the browser plugin to access geolocation data. The location may come more the location APIs on the device, manual input, but most interestingly from the wi-fi network locationing services from the likes of Skyhook with their Loki technology. Geode folks intend to enable a pluggable provider for location technology at some point, but I assume the early to market providers will be in definite positions of advantage.

Skyhook’s Loki technology is an interesting one where they have built up a database of wireless access points around various neighborhoods. Given the large base of wifi access points across metro and urban areas this model probably works well.  I am slow to get on the “who cares about privacy” bandwagon and things like this kind of creeps me out, just like it does with Google’s street view camera pointing at my house. But like so many other information about us, the wifi signal is out there for anybody’s picking, and the GPS fix delay can indeed be an irritating one and I have seen that time and again both on my phone and Garmin Nuvi. The accuracy of the wifi location information is apparently good enough for most of the relevant information on the web. I did install the Loki app on my phone and it found my home location alright. I wonder which of the wifi access points around here it used it to locate me. When it cannot find a wifi access point to ID, a manual location input is desired. I assume it uses sufficient wifi APs in a given location to protect against intermittent and down APs.

The released Geode extension can be installed on the Firefox 3.1 beta and the Fennec alpha release of  Mozilla mobile browser. Have to try that out on my N810.

I am sure Geode’s proposed integration with Yahoo Fire Eagle is an added boon for the back end service and ad-network enablers. This technology is probably going to benefit laptop users and other open platform users who are able to install Firefox and necessary native components for the plugin. I wonder when the other, particularly device, browsers will start rolling out their W3C Geolocation API implementation to drink all that revenue from all the localized ad stream before that stream dries up given the way the market is tanking.


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