Email Delivery

Receive new posts as email.

Email address

Syndicate this site

RSS | Atom


About This Site
Contact Us
Privacy Policy


November 2010
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        

Stories by Category

Basics :: Basics
Casting :: Casting Listen In Podcasts Videocasts
Culture :: Culture Hacking
Deals :: Deals
Future :: Future
Hardware :: Hardware Adapters Appliances Chips Consumer Electronics Gaming Home Entertainment Music Photography Video Gadgets Mesh Monitoring and Testing PDAs Phones Smartphones
Industry :: Industry Conferences Financial Free Health Legal Research Vendor analysis
International :: International
Media :: Media Locally cached Streaming
Metro-Scale Networks :: Metro-Scale Networks Community Networking Municipal
Network Types :: Network Types Broadband Wireless Cellular 2.5G and 3G 4G Power Line Satellite
News :: News Mainstream Media
Politics :: Politics Regulation Sock Puppets
Schedules :: Schedules
Security :: Security 802.1X
Site Specific :: Site Specific Administrative Detail April Fool's Blogging Book review Cluelessness Guest Commentary History Humor Self-Promotion Unique Wee-Fi Who's Hot Today?
Software :: Software Open Source
Spectrum :: Spectrum 60 GHz
Standards :: Standards 802.11a 802.11ac 802.11ad 802.11e 802.11g 802.11n 802.20 Bluetooth MIMO UWB WiGig WiMAX ZigBee
Transportation and Lodging :: Transportation and Lodging Air Travel Aquatic Commuting Hotels Rails
Unclassified :: Unclassified
Vertical Markets :: Vertical Markets Academia Enterprise WLAN Switches Home Hot Spot Aggregators Hot Spot Advertising Road Warrior Roaming Libraries Location Medical Public Safety Residential Rural SOHO Small-Medium Sized Business Universities Utilities wISP
Voice :: Voice


November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | August 2010 | July 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | April 2010 | March 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | December 2009 | November 2009 | October 2009 | September 2009 | August 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | March 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | October 2008 | September 2008 | August 2008 | July 2008 | June 2008 | May 2008 | April 2008 | March 2008 | February 2008 | January 2008 | December 2007 | November 2007 | October 2007 | September 2007 | August 2007 | July 2007 | June 2007 | May 2007 | April 2007 | March 2007 | February 2007 | January 2007 | December 2006 | November 2006 | October 2006 | September 2006 | August 2006 | July 2006 | June 2006 | May 2006 | April 2006 | March 2006 | February 2006 | January 2006 | December 2005 | November 2005 | October 2005 | September 2005 | August 2005 | July 2005 | June 2005 | May 2005 | April 2005 | March 2005 | February 2005 | January 2005 | December 2004 | November 2004 | October 2004 | September 2004 | August 2004 | July 2004 | June 2004 | May 2004 | April 2004 | March 2004 | February 2004 | January 2004 | December 2003 | November 2003 | October 2003 | September 2003 | August 2003 | July 2003 | June 2003 | May 2003 | April 2003 | March 2003 | February 2003 | January 2003 | December 2002 | November 2002 | October 2002 | September 2002 | August 2002 | July 2002 | June 2002 | May 2002 | April 2002 | March 2002 | February 2002 | January 2002 | December 2001 | November 2001 | October 2001 | September 2001 | August 2001 | July 2001 | June 2001 | May 2001 | April 2001 |

Recent Entries

In-Flight Wi-Fi and In-Flight Bombs
Can WPA Protect against Firesheep on Same Network?
Southwest Sets In-Flight Wi-Fi at $5
Eye-Fi Adds a View for Web Access
Firesheep Makes Sidejacking Easy
Wi-Fi Direct Certification Starts
Decaf on the Starbucks Digital Network
Google Did Snag Passwords
WiMax and LTE Not Technically 4G by ITU Standards
AT&T Wi-Fi Connections Keep High Growth with Free Service

Site Philosophy

This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator. Part of the FM Tech advertising network.


Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2010 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.

Powered by
Movable Type

« "Bad Science" Reporter on BBC's Bad Science | Main | Loki 2.0 Lets Web Sites Retrieve Users' Location »

May 28, 2007

Another Player in Social Wi-Fi Networking: WeFi

Hey, Fon and Whisher, move over: there's another house being built in your neighborhood: WeFi allows you to map your own and other Wi-Fi locations, and share that information via their service, which puts the spots on a map with a key. You can set up buddy lists, and see who is online and where they are relative to your connection.

There's no clear explanation of how a router gets added to the network, but the notes say that the service supports WEP and WPA (but not WPA2) encryption, which means the keys must be distributed through the application, like Whisher. The first release covers Windows XP only, but Vista and Mac OS X are coming. (A download key is needed at this stage of the beta: 07ApM81D3.)

Esme Vos--on WeFi's advisory board--thinks that WeFi is distinct from Fon and Whisher because the former requires specific hardware and a network membership, while the latter isn't as good at finding free locations as it's an opt-in system. I tend to agree that it's distinct in this fashion, but that could be a problem. With more people being arrested around the U.S. and worldwide (Singapore, notably) for using open Wi-Fi access points without proper authorization, having an army of users mapping unprotected locations could be problematic even with an option for the operators of those locations to opt out. Some kind of accommodation must be made to avoid misuse of other people's networks in a systematic fashion.

ClientsI have a hard time seeing that without a reliance on extra features, how WeFi improves on JiWire's offline hotspot directory. The mapping is nice, but JiWire only lists purposely public hotspots. And the mapping would require a live Internet connection, in which case you could use JiWire online or any other hotspot directory to locate service. (Disclosure: I have a tiny number of shares in JiWire.)

Looking at the troika of Fon, Whisher, and WeFi makes me think back a few years to another group of three: Joltage, SOHOWireless, and Sputnik--not because I predict any particular failure, but rather because of some resonances. Those former companies were each founded with the idea that grass-roots installation of hotspots would lead to the creation of massive networks that each had their own sets of users. Joltage went under, SOHOWireless disappeared (its Web site is still alive, with an old copyright date), and Sputnik turned into a Wi-Fi network management firm that sells a combination of controller software and inexpensive manageable devices. Each had a revenue model behind them, and at least Sputnik had a free option.

The reason those three firms didn't succeed in their original mission was that the technology was too expensive and slow, and the range too short to build an affordable, effective network. Sharing an Internet connection was problematic, too, and broadband wasn't yet widespread back in 2002 when they launched. Today, Fon can ship a $40/€40 router that's more powerful than most 2002-era PCs, and broadband is widespread enough, coupled with their deals with Time-Warner and BT to make that a non-issue at least in the U.S. and U.K. Whisher and WeFi aren't dependent on routers. The three older firms had no chance of reaching any kind of critical mass.

However, it's probably worthwhile to read my response to a Robert X. Cringely column written in 2004 in which he proposed a WhyFi network. As I related what Cringely was suggesting: "He expects that every participant in the project who offers free Wi-Fi will eat the bandwidth bill in exchange for free equipment, which will be loaned not given to them. Only those providing hotspots get free access to the network." (Sounds quite like Fon in some ways, no?)

My conclusion was that WhyFi wasn't needed: "Free commercially funded Wi-Fi is an idea that’s spreading, but it’s going to spread in the vernacular: not with a centralized database and huge funding. Each business or group of businesses will make their decisions and roll it out, and eventually it’s going to be trivial for someone to find free, commercially supported access (not to mention free community and free municipal) in any business district." I thought scattered hotspots in unpredictable and off well-traveled paths by tourists and locals would have little value.

Three and a half years later, this is mostly true, but I don't think my argument refutes the merit of Fon for mobile handheld roaming--though the density they still need to achieve is much higher than what they have today--nor Whisher and WeFi for linking hotspots socially. Fon pays almost nothing beyond its router subsidy for building its network; Whisher and WeFi pay just for software development. The former does require someone swap out or install a Wi-Fi gateway; the latter two firms work with existing ones. The cost and complexity isn't high for any of the three networks.

The part I missed in 2004, however, was confederation: Fon, Whisher, and WeFi are all building separate grassroots networks which will have distinct user bases. Whisher noted at its launch that Fon users could also belong to Whisher; Whisher shares private Wi-Fi, while Fon manages public Wi-Fi. A La Fonera router has both a public and private network, and thus that could work.

But it's unlikely you'll find one user that chooses to run more than one of these networks, which restricts possibilities if the networks offer complementary purposes. Confederation would allow some kind of common set of user parameters and some kind of roaming across networks, or at least an exchange of information. That might allows a Whisher user to include a WeFi buddy. Or a Fon "Linus" user who shares his or her access point for free to other Linus users to roam onto open Whisher or WeFi access points that have been programmed into that system. (Whisher and Fon have bad blood due to conflicts among the founders, however.)

A lack of confederation is why some people use five different instant messaging clients, and others (like myself) are resident on one network and can't IM with people using other systems. The growth of confederation among text messaging systems in the US led to an explosion in the use of SMS, an area in which the U.S. once lagged other cell-phone heavy countries.

In a situation where we could have multiplying social and other grassroots networks, either the biggest pockets win and the other fade away, or the best idea that requires the least effort waxes while the others wane. Confederation and roaming among these networks could be a good long-term strategy to ensure unique characteristics of each network without making users choose.