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Opera tells dev build where you are

Apes Firefox geolocation

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Following in the footsteps of Mozilla and the latest Firefox beta, Opera Software has released a developer build of its Norwegian web browser that knows where you are.

The new Opera "technology preview" includes the W3C's Geolocation API, a way for websites to request your physical location - and for you to give it. If you think that's a good idea.

The idea is that web apps will use this API spec to provide you information specific to your particular place on the planet. A restaurant review site could instantly serve up a list of nearby coffee shops. A weather site could provide the local forecast.

This fall, Mozilla rolled the API into a Firefox add-on dubbed Geode, and it's now part of the new Firefox 3.1 beta, released earlier this month.

Like Mozilla's, Opera's API taps into a positioning system from an outfit called Skyhook Wireless. Skyhook's Loki service maps your location using GPS, WiFi signals, or cell phone towers.

Lars Erik Bolstad, Opera's VP of core technology, is also the chair of the W3C's Geolocation working group. He tells The Reg that Opera plans to include the W3C's API in the shipping version of its browser "before the end of the year."

The API has yet to be standardized, but Bolstad has no doubts it will be. His working group is backed by Google and Microsoft as well as Mozilla and Opera. Per usual, Apple is no where to be found.

The new Opera technology preview - available here - lets developers get a head start on their geolocation apps. But it's also a way for Opera to test the privacy features so important to this sort of API.

"It's important to have the right protection mechanisms in place to protect the potential abuse of this information - location information is sensitive information," Bolstad says. "The intention of this labs release is to experiment with the user interface that exposes this functionality."

With the current build, the browser will only collect geolocation information if the user explicitly gives approval. Mozilla has rolled similar protections into the Firefox beta ®

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