All posts tagged ‘Geo’

File Under: Software & Tools

Geode Plug-in Will Tell Firefox Where You Are

MozillalabsMozilla is getting ready to push Firefox into the realm of geo-awareness with a new Labs offering that will be known as Geode. The company will make an official announcement later today, but already some details about Geode are trickling out.

Here’s what we know at this point:

  • Geode will be a Labs-based Firefox plug-in
  • Unlike many geodata services, Geode appears to aimed squarely at the desktop/laptop rather than mobile devices.
  • Geode’s goal is make Firefox location aware. Say you’re in Manhattan for the week and you want to find a restaurant. Head to Yelp and Geode will automatically find nearby restaurants and offer directions.

Of course the brief descriptions and hints Mozilla has dropped so far raise more questions than they answer. The big question that seems most relevant is how web services will interact with Geode and what the advantage of having a centralized service will be. After all, sites like Yelp, Flickr and YouTube already offer pretty good geo-searching tools, what will be the advantage of having the browser handle that task?

It’s also worth noting is that Geode will not be the first add-on to bring location awareness to Firefox. The Firefox geodata plug-in Loki can already do much of what Geode promises to offer. Of course without more information from Mozilla, it’s impossible to know how Loki and Geode might differ.

We’ll be sure to update you when Mozilla makes its official announcement later today.

[Update: Mozilla has made its announcement, check out our follow-up coverage]

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File Under: Software & Tools

Google Earth Invades Your (Windows) Web Browser

Google Earth Browser Plug-in

The 3D mapping capabilities of Google Earth are now available in your browser thanks to a new plug-in and API. The new features make it possible for map developers to add a Google Earth view to their existing maps with just a single line of code.

As Google’s Geo Lat/Long blog says, the new tools bring “the full power of Google Earth to the web, embeddable within your own web site.”

For now the browser plug-in is Windows-only and works with either Firefox or Internet Explorer 6/7. While the need to download a plug-in will limit your audience somewhat, the new tools look like a fantastic way to extend a Google-maps application without requiring the separate Google Earth download.

If you’re not a fan of Google Earth, don’t worry the new 3D features won’t replace the old Google Maps standby. And it’s worth noting that the new release does not convert the entire Google Earth application to the browser. That said, it does enable the most frequently used aspects of the standalone app (which, by the way, needn’t be present for the plug-in to work).

The new Google Earth tools are not unlike Microsoft’s 3D mapping plug-in –Virtual Earth 3D– which offers similar features.

Along with the plug-in, Google has released a JavaScript API for interacting with Google Earth via the browser. If you have an existing Google Map on your site, all you need to do to enable then new Google Earth view is add a line of JavaScript to your initialization code. Just call the map type G_SATELLITE_3D_MAP in your setup script and a new button will appear offering a Google Earth view right alongside the map and other views. Obviously only those with the plug-in installed will be able to see the Google Earth view.

For more details on what you can and cannot do with the new developer API, check out Dan Catt’s write up; he uses Firebug to dissect the new API (Catt in Flickr’s resident mapping expert). Also be sure to read through the new Google Docs page for full details.

For a quick overview of the new Google Earth browser plug-in in action, have a look at the intro movie below.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Get Your News Fix Inside Google Earth

Google News in Google EarthGoogle Earth has added a remarkable new layer that displays Google News stories by location. At first glance it may not sound like a a big deal, but as Brandon Badger, Product Manager of Google Earth, says, this marks “a milestone in the evolution of the geobrowser.”

The significance lies in the fact that Google Earth is able to parse geo-location data from news stories, which is no easy task. Just because a story mentions say, Paris, to cite an obvious example, does not mean the story is about Paris, France. The geo parser must be able to tell stories about Paris, France from those about Paris, Texas, Paris Hilton or any other Paris.

But the algorithm geniuses at Google seem to have figured out a way to do it, because in my testing all the Google News items in Google Earth were where they should be.

Although Google Earth previously added a layer for New York Times stories, in all likelihood the geo-data was being added by hand. This new layer, however, spatially locates the entire Google News index with its some 4,500 news sources, so there’s no way this is being done by hand.

To see Google News items in Google Earth head to the layers sidebar and look in the “Gallery” folder for the new “Google News” option. Then just enable that layer and you’ll see Google News icons pop up all over the globe. Clicking on the news icon will open up a balloon with the same story snippet and additional links that you’d find in Google News. Of course to get the full story you’ll still have to click a link, which will open in your browser.

The icons and stories you have access to depend on your zoom level. At the national level you’ll find the big stories in that region, but zooming in further shows news from region and local sources. You won’t be able to get the kind of ultra-local detail you can find in Everyblock, but it’s still pretty impressive.

As we’ve suggested before, Google Earth is well on its way to replacing the web browser with the geo browser.

[via Google Operating System]

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