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Fire Eagle lead developer Tom Coates just announced at the ETech conference that Yahoo is launching Fire Eagle for developers today. Fire Eagle is meant to be a location broker that collects location information from a variety of services and devices and makes them available to other platforms. Fire Eagle offers open APIs both for data input and output, which means the service will coexist and possibly even enrich other location platforms. One of the first services plugging into Fire Eagle will be Dopplr.
The beta test is still invite-only, but you can sign up for one on the Fire Eagle web site. Coates said that 10,000 invitations were sent out today, and more will be available soon. Invited users also get a handful of invites to give away. Here are some screenshots:
End users at this time can do little more than update their location through the Fire Eagle web site and play with their privacy settings. Fire Eagle still has some problems recognizing locations that aren’t specified with a exact postal address. For example, it wouldn’t locate me at the “San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina,” which is where ETech is happening this year, unless I entered the complete address. There is also activity stream that would be publicly available to the end user.
The service has some similarities to other locative platforms like Plazes.com, but it’s missing any social component. The reliance on third-party developers to actually make Fire Eagle work does have some important privacy implications: Yahoo doesn’t store any location history, but that doesn’t stop any other platform from starting a complete tracking profile.
It will be interesting to see what Fire Eagle developers inside and outside of the Yahoo Universe come up with. Yahoo is already working on a few basics, like a Facebook app and the ability to automatically update your location through your mobile phone that’s based on cell tower IDs, but the service could obviously also play a big role in future versions of Upcoming, Yahoo Local and other Yahoo services.