“Where I Am” in Firefox

Firefox’s Geolocation feature uses wireless access points. However, not all computers have wireless, and even for those which do, not all APs are in the database. It falls back to IP-based geolocation, but that is far less accurate. Also, it’s worth noting that many computers – particularly those without wireless – are not laptops and therefore don’t move around.

So what would be cool is if, if there’s no fix from the wireless, Firefox gave you an information bar saying the following:

foo.bar.com wants to know your location, but Firefox doesn't know it very accurately.
( Find Myself On A Map ) ( Share Approximate Location ) ( Don't Share ) [x] Remember for this site

If you clicked “Find Myself On A Map”, Firefox would bring up a map from Google, OpenStreetMap or another provider, zoomed and scrolled to the approximate location it knows, and would invite the user to place a marker where they were. At the bottom, there would be the following UI:

[x] This computer is always at this location
( Share This Location ) ( Cancel )

If you left the checkbox checked, Firefox would remember the coordinates you chose and then in future you’d get a slightly modified version of the normal infobar:

foo.bar.com wants to know your <saved location>. ( Share Location ) ( Don't Share ) [x] Remember for this site

Clicking on “saved location” would give you the opportunity to update it, if for example you’d moved house.

A UI like this would bring the benefits of accurate geolocation to a much wider range of machines. Anyone feel like implementing this for Firefox 3.7? :-)

10 thoughts on ““Where I Am” in Firefox

  1. Yes, and that’s actually how we designed the original UI. Trying to get there, can’t remember if there are already bugs on file. Especially important for desktops and even laptops which are often used in one of two to five places.

  2. Philip: When you ask the website “where’s my nearest Pizza Express” or “where’s my nearest postbox?”, it can tell you. If it thinks I’m in the middle of Westminster, 30 miles away (as Firefox’s Geolocation currently does) then the answer it gives back isn’t going to be great.

  3. A UI like this would be a definite improvement, especially for desktop machines. For laptops, however, an add-on to get the position from a GPS unit would be even better. As far as I can tell the hooks are there in Firefox, but nobody has written such an add-on yet, which I think is a real shame.

    I blogged about this omission in August:


    I’ve been getting about 25 visits to that page each month since then, so clearly I’m not the only person with an interest in this. Geolocation could be incredibly useful, but not if it doesn’t work. Firefox currently puts me about 100 miles from my actual location :-(

  4. With Geolocater, say "Where I Am" in Firefox

    Just after the EuMozCamp09 HTML5 Roundtable, I’ve proposed to Vladimir Vuki?evi? the idea to add the possibility to say “Where I Am” in Firefox. He said that this functionnality it’s more suitable as an add-on.

    During this conversation, I’ve…

  5. Definitely needed, and you need a set of common locations (home, work, … maybe shared with your mapping web site of choice), and it would be nice if you could fuzz your location to the fire station two streets over. It sounds like Geolocator does some of this.

    As I said on dougt’s posts, sites need similar code for the JavaScript if (navigator.geolocation) … else { /* fallback code goes here */ }. Does any JavaScript UI library implement fallback code yet? Until sites get the “else” fork, geolocation is going to be slow to take off, and it’ll take off faster if there’s some consistency for the poor huddled masses not using Firefox.

  6. @Gerv: I see your website says “email me if you need my […] postal address” (as opposed to simply publishing it there, as you once used to), so clearly you now reckon that this info should only be shared on a need-to-know basis. With that in mind, I hope that “don’t share” would always be the default option, so that once users enter their location they don’t end up sharing it unwittingly just because they unthinkingly accept default menu options.

  7. > When you ask the website “where’s my nearest Pizza Express”
    > or “where’s my nearest postbox?”, it can tell you.

    Currently, websites of that sort let you type in any address you want and find a [whatever] near that address. This is a much better system, because usually you aren’t currently located at the place where you want to find the thing. At home, you generally already *know* exactly where the nearest [whatever] is located. You look for things near your destination, usually when you’re planning a trip, not near home.

    Having your web browser tell the site where you are currently located so the site can return the “nearest” [whatever] is not a step forward. It’s very much a step in the wrong direction.