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updated 8/14/2008 12:17:59 PM ET 2008-08-14T16:17:59

Yahoo Inc. is riding the wave of location-based services with the launch of a service intended to help users share their real-world location with their friends online.

Yahoo made Fire Eagle available to the public this week. Previously, the service had been available in a private "beta" test since March.

After signing up with a Yahoo ID, users can update their physical locations through Fire Eagle's Web site or from a cell phone with Fire Eagle's mobile site. They can then let the service interact with a variety of desktop, Web-based and mobile applications to let people know where they are. Early participants include Dopplr, a site for sharing travel plans, and Pownce, a site for sending messages and files.

Yahoo said Fire Eagle gives users a range of privacy options for applications they use with it, and the site securely stores location information.

Tom Coates, who led the development of Fire Eagle as head of product for Yahoo's startup-like projects unit, Brickhouse, said the platform was developed as a way to make Web sites more geographically aware and personalized.

"Location is an extra thing that can transform every site on the Web," he said.

And since Fire Eagle is an open platform, developers can use it to add location services to applications as well.

So far, Coates has spotted about 50 applications using Fire Eagle, including one that a user built to track himself and another meant to add locations to blog posts.

Coates said Fire Eagle could help generate revenue in the future, but "we're concentrating right now on making it as big as possible and getting the service used."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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