The benefit and utility of having Web sites automatically aware of your location is clear. This is especially true if surfing from a mobile phone. It would help cut down on the time you'd otherwise have to spend keying in location data, or making sure your GPS is active.
Now you may not have to.
The new Gears Geolocation API can find your phone using cell towers that are close by or via your phone's GPS. If you're using a PC, it will use your computer's IP address. How will this make things better? Google cites an example:
Right now, Gears is only working on Windows Mobile devices using Internet Explorer, and IE or Firefox on the desktop.
One of the most popular travel sites in the Europe, lastminute.com, has now location-enabled their new mobile restaurant finder to help you find restaurants near you without requiring you to type in where you are. If you're in the UK, just go to fonefood at m.lastminute.com, click the "Find your location" link on the home page, select the type of restaurant you want, and lastminute.com will automatically work out which neighbourhood and city you are in and find matching restaurants. This is great for both UK residents and the millions of tourists who visit each year.
Google says that it takes privacy seriously (ha, ha, ha). The new software will not record your location, but merely uses it to provide better and more relevant search results. It says Web sites will always ask if it is OK to use your location information, and cautions that you should only agree if you trust the Web site.
It is up to Web site developers to take the API and use it to empower location awareness. Google isn't going to do it for them.