Today at Yahoo’s Brickhouse, a team of developers, press, and Yahoo execs including co-founder David Filo converged for the release of Fire Eagle, Yahoo’s geo-location platform. Fire Eagle allows allows developers to include positional data in their applications with a minimal amount of work. The platform was originally announced in November, and has since been deployed by a number of select partners including Six Apart and LightPole. Today’s release extends availability to anyone.
Fire Eagle allows users to syndicate their positional data to any partner service after updating from a supported device or website. This means that after sending a Pownce message with a geo-tagged photo, I could have Fire Eagle automatically update my current location on my blog and social network profile. Users can opt to disable updates whenever they’d like, and for the especially paranoid, you can even lie about your location.
Included in the announcement were demos from partners Six Apart, Pownce, and Outside.in, each of which already features integration with Fire Eagle. Six-Apart’s Moveable Type plugin has actually been available since March, and allows users to go-tag their posts and include a frequently updated map on their blog. Pownce, which is launching Fire Eagle support today, allows users to geo-tag nearly anything on its file and message sharing service. In the future, Pownce will also allow users to browse other users’ messages by location.
One of my biggest concerns with Fire Eagle (and one that Yahoo is well aware of) is the lack of a standardized way to remove location updates from partner services. While users have full control over their current Fire Eagle status (which only includes their current position, and keeps no log), the partner services they’ve signed up for may continue to display their location history indefinitely. Fire Eagle says that as part of the Terms of Service, partner services must agree to let users delete their messages, but this will be impossible to enforce. Ultimately, it will be up to users to selectivity give their information to the services they trust.
That said, Fire Eagle’s ease of use and relativity low barrier to entry (you can use your existing Yahoo ID) stands to make it a hit for developers and users alike, especially given impending rise of proximity-based social networks and services.