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« Google Did Snag Passwords | Main | Wi-Fi Direct Certification Starts »

October 23, 2010

Decaf on the Starbucks Digital Network

I went to try out the network today in a nearby Starbucks to little luck: Your faithful WNN reporter likes to test the dog food offered by companies he writes about, and so I set out this Saturday to visit a Starbucks nearest my home (reportedly the second busiest in the United States) to try out the new Starbucks Digital Network (SDN). The results were poor.

The store has no branding for the service yet. I used my iPhone to try to bring up a launch page; no luck. I checked, and I was on the AT&T network, and a deep technical detail on the phone indicated that it was a Starbucks node. I visited, and there was a movie on the home page explaining SDN, but no links to content.

Starbucks Digital NetworkFinally, I searched Google for references to see if someone had slipped out a URL. TechCrunch had a screen capture with a visible address. I typed it in (quite long), and was redirected to—Yahoo is the back-end operator of this effort. (Visit that address outside a store, and you get an error page: "It looks like you’re trying to connect to the Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo!. You can only do this when you’re connected to Wi-Fi at company-owned Starbucks locations in the United States.")

The page that came up was clearly not designed to be displayed on an iPhone. It's possible there's a custom page that should have been shown. I entered to see if a better redirect would occur, but I was pushed back to "m." A few top-level items are promoted, although a Yahoo search banner dominates the top. Below that, a free iTunes download, a promo clip for Waiting for Superman, and something else I cannot now recall.

I tapped a banner for News way at the bottom (I suspect that's due to the wrong mobile UI being presented), and very very slowly, a page with links to the New York Times Web app, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications appeared. I tapped, waited, tapped, and finally checked other sites over Wi-Fi. Clearly, the network was overwhelmed—there were an ocean of laptops in the store.

That's not great for a rollout. Staff needs to be trained. Table tents or posters should be up. The splash page should work. Bandwidth should not be so scarce. It might have been a glitch, but a fairly glaring set of them.

Update: Chris Wichura sent in a photo of the flyer on the table in a Starbucks he went into. No URL. Splash screen didn't work for him, either, it sounds like.


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Sorry you had a difficult time connecting. iPhone users auto-authenticate to the wifi, so to access the Sdn just type then the redirects should work, the URL from the screengrab could dns/cache issues which make things act strange. Try a cache clear next time you are in and let me know if sequence works @stephengillett on twitter.

CIO, Starbucks

Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, the URL, of which the staff was unaware, only redirected to, which didn't seem optimized for iPhone. I'll try to clear the cache next time (Settings app > Safari > Clear Cache), but I'm surprised I'd need to do that.

That's a bummer to hear, as the promoted benefits were actually attractive enough that I was thinking about making a trip to a nearby location to take advantage of the offers. Hopefully the setups will improve and promotion will help clarify how to get the goods before too long.

Hopefully they'll also clarify how to report issues in specific locations so they can make the call to get things resolved. I love seeing you get a response directly from the CEO, but I shudder to think about the process he'd have to go through to get actuall results in a location near you.

Thanks for the report!

Seems like teething pains, to be sure.

For connection problems at any AT&T Wi-Fi Services location, call 1 877 929-7678

Thank you! I had an equally frustrating experience at a Starbucks here in Seattle this morning but wasn't as persistent and gave up after trying in vain to find a link, any link to the vaunted Starbucks Digital Network!

Starbucks, I love the idea, but you need to make it a lot easier to find! What could you be thinking?

I just followed @stephengillett instructions at a Starbucks in Healdsburg, California, and successfully connected to the new Starbucks network. This store had materials promoting the new service.

@JC -
could that be a Starbucks specific number? I have an AT&T McD Help number: 1 877 623 9434. Unfortunately, I had to use it quite often at our local McD.

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