One of our favorite stories of the year, originally published July 26, 2022.
Wi-Fi is something most of us use every day. It is a wonderful technology that allows us to communicate and share large amounts of digital information with multiple devices without the use of cables. Requesting a Wi-Fi password is almost like asking for a drink of water in many homes and establishments. But what does it mean? If you’re anything like me, all your guesses will be wrong.
Wireless fidelity? Error. Wireless finder? No. Withering fireballs? Not even close, my friend.
According to MIC (opens in new tab) quote from this interview 2005 by Boing Boing (opens in new tab), Wi-Fi means none of these things, and in fact means nothing at all. Wi-Fi was previously a name agreed upon between a group now known as the WiFi alliance (opens in new tab) and some brand consultants from Interbrand agency. This feels a bit like finding out that a friend has been using their middle name for years.
The original term IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence seemed like a bit of a hard push in the slogan-driven 90s, so the alliance was looking for something more marketable. Ten names were suggested by the brand agency and in the end the group opted for Wi-Fi, despite the emptiness that the name entails. Although a meaningless name didn’t work for everyone.
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“The only reason you hear about ‘wireless fidelity’ is that some of my colleagues in the group were scared. They didn’t understand branding or marketing. They couldn’t imagine using the name ‘Wi-Fi’ without kind of a literal explanation,” Phil Belanger, founder of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said in the interview. “So we compromised and agreed to include the tagline ‘The Standard for Wireless Fidelity’ along with the name.
“This was a mistake and only served to confuse people and dilute the brand.”
A word that many of us may say several times a day is actually outright marketing nonsense.
So wifi means nothing, but maybe it’s the friends we made along the way? After all, we are currently jumping ahead Wi Fi 6 to Wi Fi 7 (opens in new tab)and the is not even certified yet (opens in new tab). You can get Wi-Fi range extenders (opens in new tab), USB adapters (opens in new tab), Update Wi-Fi drivers (opens in new tab)and connect to WiFi all day long. Wi-Fi really is a sweet-smelling piece of technology, regardless of its name.