Now you know my location (as of this posting). My location is important information — to me, my friends and many, many unknown-to-me third-parties. As it becomes possible to be located (through GPS, wi-fi, cell towers) sharing that information will become very, very easy. This can be a good thing or become one of the most annoying things that you’ve ever done to yourself (ads, spam, ex’s). Because of the high-risk of self-inlficted abuse having an easy way to set permissions on this information is going to become very important. Skyhook Wireless is working on just that under its Loki brand.
My Loki is an experimental location brokering service. If you are using Loki, a browser toolbar that locates you via wifi hotspots (WinXP/FF only at present), you can use the new MyLoki to share your location in multiple ways at varying degrees of granularity. Currently, you can share your location at the country, state, city, postal code and street levels (definitely missing neighborhood). You can share your location via a public page (with an obfuscated URL) , a location feed (for easy inclusion on Jaiku, Twitter, Tumblr or anywhere else that will aggregate your feeds), the Loki Facebook app, an image badge or a map image.
The service is still very young. In time they plan to launch APIs, more international support, extend automatic update support beyond WinXP/FF to the OS X, Vista, Windows Mobile and Symbian platforms. There is currently an iPhone interface, but I have not been able to reach it. They are using the free Geonames geocoder.
My Loki is in a closed Beta right now, but you can request an invite. They are looking to integrate with other services. I am sure that Ryan Sarver, Skyhook evangelist & Wherecamp organizer, will be reading the comments of this post if you are interested. Post something to let him know.
My Loki is a good start at location brokering. It has good levels of granularity for sharing, but unfortunately it is only half the equation. Though it allows for many “outs” like RSS, image badges, Facebook it only accepts one “in”, a Loki-provided location. What about Tripit or Dopplr or the Boost phone or one of the countless other places that could have my location? Loki will not be able to develop for every platform and will lose the game to a service that is more open.
One that comes to mind is Yahoo’s future product FireEagle (first previewed at WhereCamp and profiled on Techcrunch). FireEagle will accept location information from any service (including Loki’s) and update any service with that location. Assuming that you want to trust a third-party with this information which would you choose? Personally I am going to side with the one that will be able to accommodate my preferred update methods.