Last week, Yahoo! launched its own Twitter-like location-tracking service Fire Eagle in private beta. While I was lucky enough to be invited on the launch, I had trouble getting the service to work fully, hence the delayed reviewed. While Twitter asks you the question, “What are you doing?,” Fire Eagle cuts to the chase (if you’ll excuse the pun) by literally asking you for your current location with the question, “Where on Earth are you, anyway!?.”
As with Twitter, users can post their location updates from and to multiple ways, the main of which being their website. You can enter your street address, neighborhood, ZIP code, or the name of the town, and Fire Eagle is able to pinpoint you and share it in various ways.
Currently, the site only supports updating from and to their website, but they are very open to developers (invite required)with an open API and accept implementations as applications into their service. Of course, a big part of having an API is using it yourself, so their “Application Gallery” page shows a number of things currently in the works — including a widget-ized badge, Fire Eagle on Facebook (being able to update your FB status that way), and SMS updates.
Coming from Yahoo!, the service is unexpectedly innovative and I think aims to serve a much-needed use. While Twitter has outgrown is original intention — which was more or less location-updates — Fire Eagle tries to reinvent that purpose with a much more focused and kind of obvious service. Unlike Twitter, however, it wants to act as a “plug-in” rather than “community” experience by plugging into other services by letting them know where you are right now in a very linear format.
If it’s able to build the right developer base and open up wisely to the public, I have no doubt the service has a chance to make its place as a useful utility. However, for that, it undoubtedly needs to build a large, large presence and really focus on its ins and outs. Essentially, there’s no use for letting something know my location unless I can do it using any device, any platform, and have it work together with all my service who I know will find that data useful.