Yahoo’s Fire Eagle Could Be Ad Platform

This week Yahoo took Fire Eagle out of beta. Fire Eagle is a geo-location platform with social, business — and advertising — implications.

“Fire Eagle is a simple service, a place where you can store information about your location. You can share that location with any service in the world,” Tom Coates, Yahoo’s Brickhouse division head of products told ClickZ. Brickhouse is Yahoo’s “idea incubator,” a division created last year to foster innovation within the company.

Internet and mobile users who sign up for Fire Eagle can set their location so their search results and other Web applications are more relevant. Users have the ability to set levels so that others, a business or colleague for instance, can see what exact location or neighborhood a person is in.

There are clear implications for advertisers since ads can be targeted to a user location. Retailers and restaurants could send dynamic ad creative about nearby locations, for example. But don’t expect that to be available just yet.

“Advertising possibilities are endless and significant,” said Coates. “At the moment we are focusing on development of the platform. We have so many possibilities that our priority is to make sure that happens. Everyone in the ecosystem benefits the larger it gets.”

That’s not to say some of the applications using the Fire Eagle API aren’t also serving ads against the location where they find you.

In beta and now in general availability, Fire Eagle is being used by apps including Lightpole, a mobile application provider; brightkite a beta-stage social networking application; and, a localized news source.

Fire Eagle was designed for practical reasons. Coates explained, “The premise is very simple. What interesting services could you make if you had access to location information?”

Mobile developer Lightpole, which focuses on location-based applications, worked with Fire Eagle through the beta period. “Every one of our content providers benefits from the fact that we’re doing Fire Eagle location, because consumers set their location easily, or rely on the fact that they set their location once and use it anywhere,” said Marcus Colombano, VP of marketing at Lightpole.

The company’s content providers include Yelp, Yahoo Local, Paper Magazine, Serious Eats, the Gothamist, Mappy Hour, and HotSpotr.

Advertising can become more relevant in a pull platform in which ads can match content consumers are searching for. “When you accurately know where somebody is, you can more accurately apply content and advertising to a situation. And that advertising becomes more relevant, and that moves away from being advertising, becomes more relevant to what the user is interested in and what they might do,” said Colombano.

While there are practical reasons why location information is useful, another piece is very important: privacy. Users are able to set their location level to private, semi-private, or shared. “You can control your level of privacy; you can change that level of privacy to the neighborhood, exact location, or hide yourself. Information still comes to Fire Eagle, but none of it goes out anywhere,” Coates said.

The most practical application for the PC might be local search. Users don’t have to bother with parameters when looking for a restaurant or local business, since that information is already in there.

For mobile devices, it’s as simple as walking down the street. Users will find their locations on the map instantly, and can seek out a store or place to eat nearby. Coates suggested that even applications such as Facebook and news sites could pull up local and relevant content based on user proximity.

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