Yahoo FireEagle – A Platform Service For Geo Information

Yahoo isn’t just announcing Kickstart this evening. Salim Ismail’s Brickhouse is announcing a very useful new platform service tonight tentatively called FireEagle, which is currently in closed alpha testing. The team is working on the launch name and final launch date now – it’s expected to be open later this month.

FireEagle, which is built entirely on Ruby on Rails, was originally inspired by Yahoo’s ZoneTag research product. It is a platform for controlling people’s location information. Tell it (directly or via a third party application built on FireEagle’s APIs) where you are (give it specific lat/long, or a city name, or a zip code, etc.) and it will note your location. Alternatively, users with GPS phones (or other GPS device) could set it to periodically update FireEagle with geo information.

Users can turn off tracking at any point, of course, and can also go in and delete any or all stored geo data about themselves. Yahoo says it will be immediately removed from their servers.

Then other applications can take that data with your permission and build it directly into their service.

This is perfect for services like Flickr, which still struggle to get users to add lat/long information to photos (With FireEagle, Flickr could just look at the time stamp on photos and note where you were on FireEagle at that time). FireEagle can also benefit by working with established place-blogging services like Plazes, both by giving and receiving geo information on users.

The service will have open APIs for both adding and taking information. Ismail says they have been working with 50 or so third party developers in secret over the last couple of months, many of whom will have applications using FireEagle ready to go on the official launch date.

I was able to take a few camera phone pictures during a demo of the product last week at Brickhouse. The resolution isn’t great (in fact it’s terrible), but you can get a feel for what the platform will look like. I’ve also included a shot of a Facebook application, below.

I think I can safely say that there are a ton of developers who are going to be extremely excited about FireEagle.