Mobile // Mobile Applications
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4/24/2009
09:23 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Google Conceives Toolbar Labs, First New Feature Is My Location For Desktop Browsers

Google has added a new lab to its series of feature-generating experimental workshops. Toolbar Labs will work on new features for the Google Toolbar. Its first official day on the job, it is introducing a new feature for desktop browsers that automatically makes them location aware.

Google has added a new lab to its series of feature-generating experimental workshops. Toolbar Labs will work on new features for the Google Toolbar. Its first official day on the job, it is introducing a new feature for desktop browsers that automatically makes them location aware.Google has all sorts of labs to create new and interesting features for its products. Perhaps the one with the most visibility is Gmail Labs. The folks over there are incessantly creating new and interesting beta features for Gmail. Now the Google Toolbar gets its own lab. Google says the, "Google Toolbar Labs is a way for us to get new ideas out to you quickly so we can see if you like them." It cautions that most labs are pre-beta software, and may not be entirely stable. In other words, proceed at your own risk.

Google's My Location feature is nothing new. The company first deployed it in 2007 for smartphones. It uses a combination of Wi-Fi, cellular tower signals and GPS (with appropriately equipped devices) to generate approximate location information. This helps power better performance in Google Maps, and also helps generate more useful (i.e., "localized") mobile searches. Toolbar Labs is now bringing this technology to the desktop.

Aseem Sood and Susan Taing, Toolbar Product Team, explain, "With Toolbar with My Location, both Google Maps and the included Maps gadget automatically center on your current location. Similarly, you can just do a search like [thai food], and you will receive a list of nearby restaurants and more local Google search results. This feature is similar to IP-based local search results announced earlier this month, except Google Toolbar with My Location can determine a more accurate location by using nearby Wi-Fi access points."

According to Sood and Taing, all this is done without linking the location information to your Google user account. Of course, this feature is completely optional and must be turned on for it to work. Right now, Toolbar with My Location works only in the U.S. on Internet Explorer 6 and higher. You can download it here.

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