5 Apr 2008, 10:02 p.m.

An Introduction to Fire Eagle

A definite highlight of Over the Air 2008 was London-based Yahoo Steve Marshall's introduction to Fire Eagle. For those not in the loop (which, to be fair, is most people: Fire Eagle is currently only open to a limited number of invited developers) Fire Eagle is Yahoo!'s brand new API for location-based services.

The genius of Fire Eagle, and the reason why it will be an enormous success, is its sheer simplicity. It does absolutely nothing beyond storing your current location, and disseminating it to your choice of sites and applications. Sure there's an API, wrappers for a few languages and some relatively fine-grained user privacy controls, but that's about it. No, actually, that is it.

By way of a simple use case: you, the consumer, log into Fire Eagle with your Yahoo! id, manually enter your location on the web page (you can enter this in countless formats - for example, geographical coordinates, a street address, a postcode or town name), and all your envious Facebook, Twitter or MSN friends get a notification that you're on the beach in Hawaii.

That's no more effort than Twitter requires, but the possibilities are way, way more interesting.

As one delegate pointed out, the killer app for Fire Eagle will be mobile, and will be one which automatically detects and uploads the user's location to Fire Eagle without user intervention. (Let's face it, who has time to constantly update it manually? [1]). I'm certain that those kinds of apps will be around in short order for GPS-enabled S60 smartphones or Windows Mobile devices such as the ubiqitous N95 or the XDA, but I won't hold my breath waiting for this functionality for my LG KU990.

Once that's in place, along with other tools such as the ability to SMS your location into the system, Fire Eagle will be a goldmine for application development. There's already a Facebook app and the rather nifty wikinear.

And no doubt countless further applications are on the way. Because, at the risk of repeating myself, the genius of Fire Eagle is its simplicity: that the intelligence is at the edge of the network [2]. Fire Eagle - the network - itself makes absolutely no assumptions about how it will be used, and thereby places no limitations on its use. The intelligence is you, the developer or entrepreneur, sat at home or in your office dreaming up incredible ways of using the technology.

You can request your invite to Fire Eagle here, but don't hold your breath. A nice touch was that Steve brought along handfuls of developer invite codes, so I made a point of snagging a couple. Fortunately, I don't think it will be long until Fire Eagle is opened up to the masses (presumably in perpetual Beta, as is de rigeur these days).


[1] Judging by the massive and inexplicable success of Twitter, perhaps quite a lot of people have this much time on their hands.

[2] That's a loose quote from financial boffin Andy Kessler, and is one of his criteria for what constitutes a good technology investment. The principle can be used to explain both the unmitigated success of TCP/IP and HTTP, and the drab featureless world of fixed telecoms.

Posted by Simon at 01:53:00 PM
23 Jun 2008, 6:17 p.m.


The Twitter bot @firebot lets you update your FireEagle location via Twitter - or at least it will when Twitter can restore their Jabber service.

I'm waiting for a FireEagle app that will make good use of my location - not send me "location targetted advertising". Not sure what form it will take though.

10 Aug 2008, 9:12 p.m.

Simon Wakeman

Our Map My Tracks app (www.mapmytracks.com) will run on your mobile phone and update the Fire Eagle service at various frequencies from once per minute.

It'll be really interesting to see how Fire Eagle evolves


25 Oct 2008, 12:34 a.m.


Did you see that Fire Eagle now integrates with the new Mozilla (labs) geocode?


The summary of this is that Geode will _automatically_ update your location.

1 Nov 2008, 10:46 p.m.


There is also a windows client that automatically updates your location on fire eagle.