Yahoo's Fire Eagle geolocation service now open to all

Tell it where you are, and it will tell all your apps. But that's a good thing.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

Fire Eagle, Yahoo's formerly experimental geolocation platform, is officially opening up to all users, and several companies are announcing products that work with it.

A refresher: Fire Eagle is a storehouse for personal location information. If you tell Fire Eagle where you are, or have applications or devices that can do so on your behalf, then other applications can grab that info (with your permission) and provide you geo-related services or social network features.

Tom Coates launches Fire Eagle at Yahoo's Brickhouse technology incubator. Rafe Needleman / CNET

One of the most interesting parts of Fire Eagle is its variable privacy feature. Even if Fire Eagle knows precisely at what address you are, you can set it to only release more general information, like the city, to certain apps or certain groups, or you can restrict location reporting by time. There's also a "hide me" button you can press if you want to shut down location reporting for a period of time.

At the Fire Eagle launch event today, Yahoo highlighted three companies using the service:

Pownce, the Twitter-ish nanoblog service. Having location available in this type of product really does change how users interact. See also Twinkle, a Twitter-compatible nanoblog service for the iPhone.

Movable Type. The blog platform will get automatic location reporting for its authors and in its Action Stream service. It wasn't discussed at the launch but one assumes the new social network products will also get support.

Outside.in, a local news and community site. It will use Fire Eagle to automatically find the info that's relevant to your location.

Other companies announcing services that work with Fire Eagle include: Brightkite, Dash, Dipity, Dopplr, ekit, Lightpole, Navizon, Loki, Outalot, Plazes, Spot, and Zkout. These companies are primarily location service providers or rudimentary social networks. I am looking forward to seeing major social nets (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, FriendFeed) and other data and news sites (Google Maps, Digg, CNN, Eventful), add Fire Eagle support.

The business
Asked what was in this initiative for Yahoo, there are two official answers. Yahoo co-founder David Filo told me, "We really wanted this functionality for Yahoo services. But by opening it up for the rest of the Web, consumers are more likely to adopt it."

Fire Eagle czar Tom Coates also said that there are possible direct revenues from the service, if Yahoo at some point decides to create a business version of the service for heavy users, like advertisers.

Yes, advertisers. While Fire Eagle will not be advertising-supported, marketers could create location-based programs that use the service. The Yahoo team is adamant that Fire Eagle will be permission-based, though, so users won't end up giving their location away to services without their knowledge.

Previous coverage:
You are here, sort of.
Fire Eagle geolocation service: Halfway there.
Fire Eagle's missing apps.