Firefox goes geo-loco

As speculation mounts that a mobile version of Firefox will make its debut in a couple of weeks, Mozilla has diverted the spotlight by announcing plans to support location-detecting software.

The mobile version previously codenamed Fennec was tipped to arrive before 2010, but comments made by chief executive John Lily in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News suggest otherwise.

"We want to make sure that the web on mobile is more like the web than what the mobile industry offers today, which is closed, separate networks and not a very good information-getting experience for the user," he told the online newspaper in a Q&A.

"The first thing is to bring Firefox to mobile devices. We're working on that and we'll see some alphas in a few weeks."

However, Mozilla executives declined to comment when asked for confirmation of the launch by IT PRO. They weren't so sheepish, however, when it came to detailing their plans for location contextual search in the company's Labs blog.

Dubbed Geode, the geolocation software will sit as an add-on extension for Firefox 3, prior to being fully integrated into a future version of the browser.

"You've arrived in a new city, a new continent, a new coffee shop. You don't really know where you are, and are looking for a good place to eat. You pull out your laptop, fire up Firefox, and go to your favorite review site. It automatically deduces your location, and serves up some delicious suggestions a couple blocks away and plots directions there," the blog said.

"In order for this to be a possibility, your browser needs to know where you are. To do this, future versions of Firefox plan on supporting the new W3C Geolocation Specification, which adds the native ability for Web sites to request, and you to optionally grant access to, your location."

The finer details are still being worked through, but Mozilla is hoping to offer one or more access methods such as Wi-Fi, or GPS. It will be made available in the beta release of Firefox 3.1 and alpha versions of its mobile counterpart Fennec.

Mozilla is clearly hoping for bigger thing with this innovation. The blog continued: "The potential here is for more than just restaurant lookups. For example, imagine an RSS reader that knows the difference between home and work and automatically changes it's behavior appropriately. Or a news site whose local section is, in fact, actually local. Or web site authentication that only allows you to login from certain physical locations, like your house."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.