It is true, what you have heard: I’m a huge fan of GPS. It successfully navigates me up to the Chops and around Westport Island, and it fetches me back to the car even when the visibility’s not so good. I’m so in the bag for GPS, in fact, that I’ve been campaigning for it on my next laptop.
So it’s natural that I would be excited by a location platform such as the newly minted fire eagle. But I genuinely think that you should be, too. Or, more accuately, you should be soon.
At the moment, fire eagle is an intriguing platform (not least for their choice of Rails), but one short on applications. The Application Gallery tab within fire eagle, in fact, features a couple of applications – prefaced with a bright yellow label reading “You can’t get these yet, but they’re coming soon.” So for now, fire eagle users can log in and update their location, and then, uh, it will know where you are.
Which is less than compelling, obviously. As with most platforms, the utility derives not from the foundation, but from the pieces that are assembled on top of that. If you’re skeptical of that claim, I invite you to uninstall all of the available browsers for your operating system of choice. And enjoy.
From the looks of it, however, fire eagle users are not going to have to wait long for applications to spring up. One of my favorite web applications, Dopplr, is already on board. And if you’re on OS X, here’s a dashboard widget and an application that routes from Plazes to fire eagle. Yahoo is apparently toying with the idea of aggregating some of the best applications, which is a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. The applications make the platform: ergo, making them easier to discover is imperative.
The real value, I suspect, will derive not through any single application, but rather in the application to application integration that’s enabled by the underlying fire eagle platform. As Michael Arrington describes it:
This is perfect for services like Flickr, which still struggle to get users to add lat/long information to photos (With FireEagle, Flickr could just look at the time stamp on photos and note where you were on FireEagle at that time). FireEagle can also benefit by working with established place-blogging services like Plazes, both by giving and receiving geo information on users.
And take it even further: what if Dopplr knew not only my location, but the particular business trip associated with that trip and could apply that data to, say, expenses filing?
I know it’s trite, but the possibilities with respect to location data really are endless.
One feature that I hope the fire eagle folks reconsider is history. Currently, the platform is amnesiac in its ignorance of the past. With the appropriate privacy controls in place, I would unquestionably appreciate the ability to track my location over time. Even if it’s just to cry about how much I travel. So if the Yahoo folks read this, yes this is a feature that I want. As would, presumably, anyone who documents their Year in Cities.
It’s still very early days for fire eagle, but I’m definitely watching.