Google released a geolocation API for laptops to Gears, its toolkit for creating cross-browser functionality. This follows its first foray into geolocation, available only for Windows Mobile. While the major feature of Gears is to give applications offline version capabilities, this release brings the possibility of grabbing the location from most major browsers.
The new functions use Skyhook’s Loki technology to map the WiFi signals in your area to your location. The result is highly accurate in urban areas. If this all sounds familiar, you may remember that Mozilla released Geode, a similar plugin, earlier this month.
As we discussed at the recent WhereCamp, location has some problems right now. WiFi locating is not a good long-term solution, but it’s useable now. For applications that require a location, you can save your user’s the step of typing in their address or intersection by offering to find it with Gears or Geode. Plus, now that we have the interface for accessing the data, we’ll be ready when the real solution comes.
Gears is completely free, both for developers and end users, and available for Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.