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New Chrome fires up geolocation ability

Google's newest browser test release enables geolocation, which can allow a Web site to find out where in the physical world you are.

"The geolocation feature is now available in Chrome 5.0.375.25 (Official Build 45690)."

With those words, posted Thursday at the bottom of a Chrome issue tracker item, the developer version of Google's browser for Windows, Mac, and Linux catches up to Firefox with one important new component of the Web. That component, geolocation, lets a browser tell a Web site the location of a person's computer once the person has given permission. (See illustration below.)

It's a handy feature, most notably for mapping or including your location in some message where it's relevant. And these days, location-based services are attracting a lot of attention as the Internet dovetails more closely with the real world.

Chrome has had geolocation support since March, but it wasn't activated by default until now. The support hasn't yet arrived in the beta or stable versions of Chrome.

One way to currently use geolocation in Firefox or Chrome is to go to Google Maps and click the small white circle in the upper-left corner of a map itself, below the navigation control and above the zoom control. A pop-up bar says, " wants to track your physical location," and if you click "allow," your location should then be shown with a blue circle on the map.

Different services are available to let a browser figure its location. Google uses mobile phone and wireless network information as well as your Internet Protocol address; mobile phones these days sometimes come with the ability to use GPS satellites to figure out where they are.

A geolocation feature asks whether you want to allow a Web site to know your location. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET