Google has just announced a nice addition to the Google Gears Geolocation API: the ability to use WiFi on laptops to locate users to within 200m accuracy in major desktop browsers in hundreds of cities around the world. We originally covered the GeoLocation API back in August, when Google first announced the release of the API for use in mobile devices to get a more precise estimate of a user's location.
This latest release now gives developers the ability to provide geographically relevant content to users with WiFi-enabled laptops.
Per the Google Code Blog:
When we originally proposed the Gears Geolocation API our goal was to make it easy for developers to deliver location enabled web sites on mobile phones. However we realized laptop users would benefit from location enabled web sites too. Today we are adding WiFi signals to the Geolocation API so that laptop users can benefit from location enabled web sites for the first time and mobile users from the increased accuracy.
Some existing web sites are already making use of this API, including lastminute.com's new Radar application, a Google Earth mash up by ITN, and Rummble's social discovery site. Note that the same code developed for mobile browsers can be used for desktop browsers, and for security reasons the API does not record the user's location. Keir Clarke over at Google Maps Mania comments that this move by Google may be in direct response to Mozilla Labs recent release of Geode, a geolocation add-on for Firefox.