Google offers easy-to-use location APIs

Google released two geolocation APIs, one for AJAX and one for Gears, aimed at making it easier to embed user location data into mobile and Web apps. The move brings Google one step closer to getting Gears in the hands (and browsers) of more users, and eventually increasing its control over the browser environment, at least that Blogoscoped's Philipp Lenssen's take on it.

The AJAX API lets developers grab user location data--such as city, country, country code, region and latitude/longitude--via JavaScript and load the data into an HTML file. Jenssen provides a neat example of how it works in his "Where Are You" page.

The AJAX API is based on IP address, which provides only approximate locations. The Gears API is more precise because it delivers location based on the cell-ID of nearby towers or on-board GPS. It requires that users first download and install Gears to their desktop or mobile device to make it work.

The tools are fun and useful, but Lenssen asks, what's in it for Google? Turns out, a lot. As he says:

"The more useful Gears becomes as a plug-in, the more likely it will be pre-installed on systems in the future – which increases the control Google has over the browser environment, which in turn enables them to more quickly launch initiatives which make the web in general and their tools more powerful without the need to go through years of industry lobbying/ standardization/ browser updating & deployment processes."

That's a pretty big incentive. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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