I have big hopes for Yahoo’s new FireEagle platform announced in November 2007. They first described it to me as a Twitter for location. And it does stream your location information in a similar way that Twitter streams short messages. The service opened into private beta today.
But it is also more than that. FireEagle has (well, will have) open APIs to send data in and get data out. That will make a variety of other web services much more useful, since they’ll be able to figure out where you are without asking. Flickr images, for example, can be auto-tagged with location by comparing the time the photo was taken to your location at that time in FireEagle. From our initial review:
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.
For now, though, the promise of FireEagle is still just that, a promise. The beta has next to no functionality – you can type in your location, which the service notes and then places on an embedded Yahoo map.
“Soon,” though, you’ll be able to send a text message with your location, or use ZoneTags on Nokia 60 phones to broadcast your location automatically. They’ll also release a mobile site for easier text input. There will be a FireEagle embeddable badge that will show where you are. And, finally, they’ll have the mandatory Facebook application to update locations and track friends.
Want in to the FireEagle beta? Get your invite here.
Update (Henry Work): Just tested the fire eagle API and it seems to work fine. I was able to create an app quickly, authenticate it over OAuth, and then grab my location data from my desktop. There’s no directory for applications, so I can’t go viral with my tester app just yet, but the whole developer angle seems promising.