We knew it was coming. Mozilla just announced a Firefox add-on that will let the browser know your location. It will be called Geode, and we have word that it will use the Wi-Fi positioning technology of Skyhook Wireless (same used in the iPhone, along with GPS).
This release essentially allows developers to experiment with location awareness before it is bundled into future versions of Firefox. Users can also begin to see what its capable of by downloading Geode and testing it with a sample “food finder” application.
What It Means
Location awareness capability could enhance lots of local search applications by automatically or “passively” serving search results based on where you are. This could be valuable for individuals who are traveling and don’t have to indicate where they are in order to get relevant results.
Beyond search (pull) it could also be used for better geotargeting for display ads. This is compared with the current state of the art, which relies on IP-based targeting — at the city level and often unreliable. Better location awareness baked right into the browser could enable more relevant banner advertising for stores or services that are down the street.
The next step will be to utilize this location awareness backbone to serve rich media ads that let users interact with trackable promotions for actual store locations that they are more likely to visit (i.e., close by). This will enable national or brand advertisers to better support their store locations, in line with the ROBO (research online, buy offline) phenomenon that is slowly gaining awareness.
We’ve seen a few companies work on the concept of serving better content and ads based on location awareness, such as Placecast and Yahoo’s Fire Eagle. In some ways it’s the right time for this, as the development of the iPhone has gotten the market warmed up to the concept of local search tools improving based on knowing where you are.
Like many other things, this user comfort level and adoption is the first step. It will take longer for brand advertisers and agencies to follow and catch on to this opportunity. But the technology is now there. In the meantime, it will serve a more user-centric purpose in making local searches easier.
Even on that measure, location awareness in the browser is just the foundation; local search engines and ad-serving technologies will have to do some work in tapping into it and spinning out products that are based on it, before we see the real killer apps.
A TKG report in the works will examine location awareness as part of the local search experience and ad-serving picture.