Mozilla Labs Geode: Follow up
There’s also been a bit of confusion about how Geode + Firefox 3.0 is related to what’s coming up in Firefox 3.1, as well as why location is a useful thing to have on a laptop/desktop computer.
One of the reasons for Firefox’s popularity is that it is so respectful of the user’s privacy and safety. With something as important as location, no amount of failure to respect the user’s desires is acceptable.
What’s the Difference Between Geode and Firefox 3.1?
There are a two main moving parts in implementing of geolocation. Let’s break them down.
Geode is meant as a temporary solution to allow websites to experiment with geolocation today. Unlike Firefox 3.1, it doesn’t afford the user a choice of geolocation provider. Skyhook is built in. A side effect is that Linux isn’t supported for the simple reason that Skyhook hasn’t implemented Linux drivers. Although not ideal, it’s okay because Geode is only a temporary add-on.
Uses: Why Geolocation on the Desktop?
There are two parts to this answer.
(1) We shouldn’t allow the web to fragment; the web shouldn’t have fundamentally different abilities on a mobile device than on the desktop. That leads us back to WAP versus HTML thinking. Geoocation, address book, and access to the camera may be seem more apropos to mobile devices on first blush, but removing them entirely from the desktop nips entire areas of innovation in the bud forever. That has a chilling effect on the web as a whole, as well as continuity of experience across all devices.
(2) There is an entire gamut innovation that geolocation enables, from obvious to obscure.
There are first-order experiences enabled by geolocation in the browser. These are of the variety, “I am here, so I should see content that is filtered by my location.” Outside.in, Everyblock, and Food Finder are examples.
There are the social aspects of geolocation. These are of the variety, “I am here, and so are/were my friends.” Brightkite, Pownce, and Twitter are examples.
And then there are the second-order experiences of the variety, “I am here versus there, so alter my experience.” This is where most of the unexplored areas in geolocation on the desktop come in.
We’ve already mentioned an RSS reader that knows the difference between home
and work and automatically changes it’s behavior appropriately, and Web site
authentication that only allows you to login from certain physical
locations, like your house. But there’s a lot more. Like virtual capture the flag. Or different playlists for different parts of the house. Or having your computer automatically turn off the lights (if you’ve forgotten to) at home when you plug in at work. Or phoning home if you computer gets stolen — with the location of the thief. Or…
If location was stored in the Places system, Firefox could modify the browser’s behaviors to be optimized for home versus work. It might even not list, in the Awesome Bar, a certain site that you visited from your bedroom after 11pm. Firefox could let you search for sites you’ve been to by remembering where you were when you did the search, or have smart bookmarks for “bookmarked at home” and “bookmarked at work”, or show a map of your browsing history. (Thanks to Dietrich Ayala for these ideas).