Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 15:50 UK

Firefox users gain location tool

Mozilla's Geode
Geode will be strictly controlled by users

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, has released technology that helps websites detect the physical location of computers.

The system will allow users, for instance, to find local restaurants when they travel to a new town.

The Geode project is an experimental add-on ahead of a full blown launch of geolocation technology in version 3.1 of Firefox.

Users will have control over how much location information they give.

It uses technology from a firm called Skyhook which works out a computer's location from nearby wireless networks.

Its so-called Loki system can determine location within seconds with an accuracy of about 10 to 20 metres.

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Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of engineering believes Geode will have a range of applications going beyond looking up restaurants.

"People have got to eat but there is a lot more to it than that," he said.

"We see location as adding an extra layer to help get people the information they need," he said.

Specific local news and website authentication that only allows people to log in from certain locations are other possible uses of the technology.

Farther out, Mr Shaver envisages location becoming "ambient", with people able to look up what others have done at particular places.

Geode is strictly controlled by the user. When a website requests a location, a notification bar lets users decide whether to give their exact whereabouts, the neighbourhood or city they are in or nothing at all.

Firefox is keen to stay ahead of privacy concerns and plans ultimately to also allow users to select what service providers and geolocation methods they want.

Loki is one of many such geographically specific applications and sites that aim to make information more "contextualised" and based on increasingly mobile web users.

Among those trialling Geode is the social network Pownce, which has added a location element to its service which makes it easier to send files and messages to friends.


Yahoo's Fire Eagle, which aims to be the broker for a number of location-aware applications, will also use it.

Mr Shaver acknowledges that, while content providers have long seen geolocation as an important tool, the views of users are yet to be tested.

"That's one of the reasons why we want people to try out Geode. We want people to tell us about their experiences and we realise it could become irksome, for example if every website is asking you whether you want to reveal your location," he said.

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