Google updated its open-source Gears project’s “Gears Geolocation API” so that developers can now securely locate users to within 200m accuracy in major desktop browsers in hundreds of cities around the world. By adding WiFi signals to the Gears Geolocation API, laptop users can benefit from location enabled web sites for the first time and mobile users from the increased accuracy.
Gears is an extension that augments the ability of Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari. But it's not the only way to get geographic information into a browser. Two weeks ago, Mozilla released a Firefox plug-in called Geode that uses a similar Wi-Fi technology, from Skyhook Wireless, to give a user's location. That service is being built into Firefox 3.1, too, and will eventually be able to use other methods, including GPS or presumably Gears, to retrieve location information.
To protect user privacy, the Gears Geolocation API server does not record user location. However, third party sites may do so, and only allow web sites they trust to access their location. Gears will always tell a user when your site wants to access their location for the first time and the user can either allow or deny your site permission.