Google’s updates surrounding location are now coming fast and furious. Just a few days ago it added location to Google Maps for the Chrome and Firefox browsers. Today, it brings location to the mobile web on the iPhone.
If you have the new iPhone 3.0 software and go to Google’s homepage in Safari, you’ll notice a new message below the search box that reads, “New! Try My Location to find restaurants, shops and bars near you!” If you click on the My Location link, the iPhone will pop open a dialogue asking if it’s okay for Safari to use the device’s location services to locate you. If you opt-in, you’ll see a new blue dot below the search box with your location next to it. Do a search, and it will return local results.
The fact that mobile Safari can access location is a huge feature. It’s what’s going to allow Google Latitude, Google’s location-based social network, to work on the device without a native app, as we described a few months ago. Something else that is potentially interesting about this is that Safari, like some of the other native iPhone apps, can apparently run in the background. Now, I’m not sure if it can still access location services while it’s running in the background, but that could be very interesting for something like Latitude.
And accessing functionality like location in the browser seems to tie in well with Google’s ultimate goal of having the web be the platform of choice.
For many people, such a feature will bring up privacy concerns. Here’s what Google has to say about that:
As always, your privacy is one of our top concerns. Google won’t use your location in search unless you explicitly opt in. And you can always disable the feature from Preferences at the bottom of the homepage.