Fire Eagle - Where's The Mobile App?

I love the concept of Yahoo’s new Fire Eagle. As Mark Josephson of said to me the other day:

Fire Eagle is a location wallet

It’s a web service that you can tell where you are at all times and manage what web services get to use that info and under what circumstances. It’s very focused on security and privacy and rightly so. Here’s Yahoo’s description of Fire Eagle.

I’ve set up a Fire Eagle "wallet" and have connected it to dopplr and radar. There are a bunch of other apps that work with FIre Eagle and they are listed in the Fire Eagle app gallery.

So here’s the thing. Fire Eagle needs to know where I am without me telling them. When I first set it up, I chose dopplr as the service that tells Fire Eagle where I am. And when I arrived in San Franscico the other night, I got an alert from’s radar about something interesting happening near where I am staying in SF. I thought – "awesome – this works".

But this morning I got an alert from’s radar about something happening in Boston (where I am headed tonight). I went to Fire Eagle and sure enough it thinks I am in Boston because dopplr does (my mistake).

That was a big realization for me. Using web services that rely on data input to update Fire Eagle makes no sense. It needs to be updated by my mobile devices.

So I figured that I’d put a Fire Eagle mobile app on my iPhone. Except there isn’t a native Fire Eagle iPhone app. Here’s what they suggest:

Be on the lookout for more ways to update your location:

  • Get Dopplr to tell Fire Eagle the city you’re in.
  • Check into your favorite places—and update Fire Eagle—with Brightkite.
  • Update your location on your OSX dashboard with our very own Fire Widgets.
  • Use ZoneTag, My Loki or Navizon to broadcast your location automatically.
  • Try out Searchquest GPS for iPhone or visit on the go.

But I don’t want to use BrightKite, ZoneTag, or My Loki. I am sure they are all great mobile social nets, but I have enough social nets in my life right now and I think Facebook and Twitter are doing pretty well supporting me when I am on my mobile.

I’ll see if I can get Navizon (which I like) or Searchquest working well on my blackberry and/or iPhone and use that to update Fire Eagle.

But Fire Eagle has been under development inside Yahoo! for the better part of the last year. Why couldn’t they build light simple apps for windows mobile, blackberry, symbian, and iPhone that you can download and use to auto update Fire Eagle? That’s really what I want.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. agawley

    The app should be a single icon. When you hit it, it gets your location from the best available source (gps or cell tower triangulation) and sends it to fire eagle. If your feeling open you could confidure it to do this automatically every x hours. That would be sweet.

  2. kellan

    FE has been in a hard spot for a while. They don’t really want to be building and running FE apps, they want a network of apps that people already need/use/want that use FE as the backend. Thats how the magic happens, and building their own apps competes with this. (its like Google making their own content)But developers haven’t really been able to build anything meaningful because while private beta works amazing for limited growth on an app like email, its terribly for an API play. So even folks like Navizon, who have FE integration, had to build clunky invitation screens. (and when we whipped up FireBall we had to hack in to get more invites)But good news Navizon does update your location!

    1. fredwilson

      Twitter built a mobile web app, but slandr is betterSo I use slandrBut they built a decent one to get things startedI think FE needs to think the same way

  3. kellan

    Be great if Disqus was reading FE to update their “Where are you?” field on their profiles.

  4. Håkan Dahlström

    For the Nokia N95 there are J2ME Mobile Updater that pretty much do the job you’re looking for. Automatic updates every X minutes etc.

    1. dominik

      Zonetag from Yahoo Research works very well, too. Actually better than the j2me updater – ymmv. http://zonetag.research.yah

      1. fredwilson

        I wasn’t sure what that was

        1. dominik

          Oh, okay, sorry. The Zonetag software is running in the background of certain Nokia models and geotags uploads to Flickr. But besides doing that it can also update the Fire Eagle location – which is what I use it for. It seems to be a bit abandoned at the moment, though.

  5. Dave Hyndman

    Agree re: the need for a native iPhone app.And the problem is bigger. I’ve been playing around with TripIt, Dopplr, BrightKite, FireEagle, Twitter’s where-are-you, etc. All too confusing. What are the relationships between all of these? Which are competitors (TripIt and Dopplr?) Which ones capture your location (preferably just one) and which ones use your location?Let me know if you figure out an optimal setup.DAVE

    1. Rupert Goldie

      One problem with planning tools like Tripit and Dopplr is that they depend on you following the plan. So they can update FE, but if you change your plans and don’t update Tripit or Dopplr FE will have the wrong information. Of course if you’re old school and print your itinerary and give it to someone you have the same problem.A problem with manual update tools, like using twitter, is that you have to keep doing it all the time. Otherwise you’re “in Boston” for days even though you were only there for a day. Facebook status has the same problem.So you really want something that does it automatically, like a mobile app. But ideally the mobile app runs all the time and doesn’t kill your battery life and doesn’t use data when your roaming.At ekit, our focus is on international travellers who may not be web or mobile savvy, so we built the location tracking into the SIM and use the network as well so the user doesn’t have to worry about installing an app on their phone, or running the battery flat in a few hours, or spending hundreds of dollars on roaming data.

      1. fredwilson

        You got this exactly right

      2. Jonathan

        I’d love to know more about running the app from the SIM… I’m an S60 user

        1. Rupert Goldie

          You can buy one of our SIMs, they’re quite reasonable priced and give you discounted calling rates when you roam internationally :-)But seriously, you have to be an operator or an MVNO to do location stuff with the SIM or network. There are plenty of operators who offer location based services (LBS) using the information they have in their network to triangulate your position, but these services are always tied to that operator. So they are useful for domestic services and people use it for logistics – tracking where your trucks are and so on.We started out building communications services for international travellers and when we began thinking about additional services we could offer that made use of the infrastructure we had, we realised we had an opportunity to build something that used location information. This lead to the development of our Travel Journal, and while we were building it we ran across Fire Eagle and saw that as a great way for people to link together location aware applications.

          1. Jonathan

            Very cool – thanks Rupert

  6. C Thomas Edwards

    Hey there – Searchquest GPS is an app for the iPhone. It’s not the best application unfortunately, but it does make it possible to update your location on the go. Also, there’s the mobile site at which could tie you over if necessary.

    1. fredwilson

      I am trying searchquestSo far, so means I have to update and I think this will only work if people auto update their location

  7. Joe Lazarus

    I agree that we need native apps, but I’d argue that Yahoo! is better off relying on other companies to build them. Fire Eagle is a pure platform play. In the long run, I think they’re better off focusing on the platform rather than creating applications that might be viewed as competitors to services that would otherwise develop on the platform. In fact, I think the biggest challenge that Fire Eagle faces is that developers may not trust a commercial entity as the universal platform for location. The concept probably makes more sense as an open source non-profit. That said, Yahoo! should have ensured that some third party developer(s) provided good apps for all the major devices at launch.

  8. Nick Molnar

    The problem with the iPhone for this is lack of persistence. You need to manually open some sort of app to get access to the GPS, and it doesn’t seem like Apple’s push notification service will help this problem.This means that FireEagle needs to find a way to get data from something you are already using. Twinkle seems like a pretty good bet: it’s popular and already pulls in location data. The upcoming Brightkite app will solve the same problem.I don’t need another social network either, but Brightkite’s social networking features are pretty secondary to its main purpose: talking to people who are in the same building as me (like at a concert or conference), or very nearby. That means you don’t need your “friends” to be in the service at all to enjoy it. It would be great to see the conversations going on in Brightkite appear in too. FireEagle should make that easier, as they are both expressing location data in the same language.

  9. Doug Klein

    The right answer (IMHO) is that location on the handset should be a system service that supports external interfaces for both push and pull via standard web services. I.e., the handset should have a mechanism to publish its location (push) and to be queried by an external service/app (pull). This is a natural migration as the devices of interest become full IP connected network participants (is anyone using a phone for data services not buying an all-you-eat data plan .. ?)The problem is that it’s all caught up in the carrier transitions. Huge issues of revenue (who collects the money for the value added services that location enables?) and privacy (who gets sued after the first LBS enabled stalker case?) For now the solution is independent services such as Navizon and Searchquest which work but have understandably spotty coverage across device and handset boundaries.I can’t answer for Yahoo! as to why they didn’t provide a small utility for this but I suspect the hairball of device and carrier support was pretty far afield from their internal charter, not to mention that they have partners building out a variety of solutions for the different use cases. To their credit they have opened up some great initial cooperative solutions for folks like us at LightPole and we certainly appreciate it 🙂

  10. Guest

    I’m guessing they don’t want to build and maintain apps for all the different handhelds and they are hoping, that by acting as a broker, the developer community will step in to fill in the gaps.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes but I think you have to seed the market. Its a little cumbersome right now to get it working rightAn iphone app at least would have been smart

      1. Guest

        That’s a good point, and I think they are seeding it, by solving a huge problem for developers. I also think they are smart for not getting mired in any device dependent issues. To me, Fire Eagle is a really elegant solution, and I think people building apps will see that (as Doug from Light Pole mentioned above).It sounds to me like you think Yahoo should have targeted users, and not just developers. I think that’s reasonable. But, as a company, I think Yahoo’s plan right now is to target developers, not users. Look at what they are doing with Search.

        1. Doug Klein

          Navizon is essentially the right idea if you have to do it within an app. I happen to use it quite happily on my Blackberry. I still think it should be at a system level but at least the BB allows background applications. Since Apple won’t open up the background for 3rd party apps (can you say “walled garden – I knew you could :), you can’t really solve the problem of having the iPhone “just doing the right thing”.The good news is that they have at least opened up the location service enough that plenty of 3rd party apps can retrieve the data and feed it back to FE, so there’s a high probability that one of your normal day-to-day applications will cooperate and make it at least appear to be automatic.

          1. Guest

            I think your second point is what yahoo is expecting, too. As long asit “appears” automatic to the people using the service, who cares howit’s being done.But, I guess the point of this blog post, and I think it is a googone, is that it still hasn’t been done welll yet. Navizon looks cool,but who is going to pay for that service? Especially, when google mapsdoes a pretty good job of triangulating your location for free.

          2. Doug Klein

            At the risk of taking the comments too deep in replies, I agree with you. However, the free version of Navizon works quite fine for this purpose.

  11. rei

    hi fred…im inviting you to promote you blog in new social blog directory, please visit, cheers

  12. Arturo Servin

    Hi Fred,What would be your expectations?Mine I think are- Automatically detecting by GPS where you are and then posting, may be updating every hour, day, etc.You must be able to up-in or up-out any time- Manual updating by a native app in your mobile- Manual updating by a web service (using openid for authentication, so you do not need anohter social net)- Manual updating by SMS-as

    1. fredwilson

      That sounds ideal

  13. Apoc'

    So basically there is no dedicated Fire Eagle’s S60 client application!? I read on bunch of blogs that S60 is the only currently supported platform but I can’t find anything more about?sent from:

  14. Ajay Sudan

    Fred, I’ve created a mobile app that updates my location on FireEagle from my jailbroken iPhone every 15 minutes. It’s been working beautifully for the last couple weeks. However, it’s a shame I can’t find a good place to expose my location others…where’s the Facebook app or Loopt integration?

  15. Tom Coates

    Hey – there are actually applications that do the kinds of things you’re talking about and you should be able to see them in the Fire Eagle application gallery. They’re of varying quality. The iPhone unfortunately can’t do background processes, but you can update with one click with Sparrow, Fire Fone or Active Eagle. Sparrow also updates Twitter with your location which is quite neat.There’s a J2ME updater that works in a lot of Nokia phones in a backgrounded way. I believe it works on some Blackberrys but we need to get it working on more. Navizon works on many phones but is – to be honest – a little bit flaky.Let me know if you need any more suggestions. They’re all collected here:

    1. fredwilson

      ThanksI’ll go check that out

  16. Jonathan

    Unless I missed it, no one has pointed out which was what Fred mentioned he was looking for to begin with. Of course doing it in the background based is more ideal and one of the things I like about Jaiku – I tag my location and it remembers. My nicknames are also shared with contacts which is handy.I’ll have to try zonetag again … I do like the geo-tagging which is a nice bonus and I already use flickr which it directly supports

  17. dominik

    Why does Zonetag not work in Australia? Is it the phone network?

  18. Jonathan

    Zonetag serious eats the battery if you leave it on and running … I’m not even using GPS and it’s draining my 1500mah battery a few bars just on my way to work (~1.5hr)