9. Yahoo fire Eagle
You might not think of Yahoo as an exceptionally innovative company. It was embarrassingly out-smarted in search by Google and tends to acquire companies – such as Flickr – rather than develop new technologies. Yet, with 13,000 employees on a sprawling campus in Silicon Valley, it’s engaged in some impressive research.
In each building, there are usability testing labs where web users’ reactions to unreleased products are monitored and evaluated. One recent research projects, Fire Eagle, has emerged as a new portal (http://fireeagle.yahoo.net).
The project has great ambitions: today, it lets you share your geolocation automatically from GPS devices. You can also let others know your whereabouts from a GPS-enabled phone. In the future, location awareness could become a prime social indicator, a kind of automated Twitter that feeds your location status into multiple sites.
“We’re taking all of this ambient awareness data and moving it into the social-networking space,” said the Oxford-educated Tyler Bell, who heads the Yahoo Geo program. “It incarnates location data about you on to the network.”
He described the Yahoo geolocation research as “game-changing”, a way to move GPS information from mobiles to the web. There’s also a personalisation angle – your geostatus can be configured appropriately for acquaintances (who just know the city location) or good friends (who might know which table you’re sitting at in a restaurant). In the future, geostatus could confirm your identity for a purchase, or even make the purchase for you from a car at the drive-through.
Mozilla is planning similar location features for the next full release of Firefox, and Google has also mirrored the concept with its new Latitude service.
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