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Summary:

It is never a good idea when the founder and chief executive officer of a start-up gets into a public fight with his ex-boss, claiming that he came up with the idea first. Yes, we are talking about Ferran Moreno, co-founder and CEO of Whisher, who […]

It is never a good idea when the founder and chief executive officer of a start-up gets into a public fight with his ex-boss, claiming that he came up with the idea first.

Yes, we are talking about Ferran Moreno, co-founder and CEO of Whisher, who has gotten into a very public and ugly spat with Martin Varvansky, the founder of FON. You can read the whole sordid and tragicomic tale of he said, she said on the Business 2.0 blog.

374362069_f226dbcae2_m.jpgWhisher launched at DEMO 2007 today and has gotten maximum press coverage, mostly because the company positioned itself as a FON competitor that uses software instead of hardware to share bandwidth. I call it wishful thinking, given its limited utility and even more limited business prospects.

What is most amusing is that Moreno dismisses FON as a telco business, and yet is happy to talk about his involvement with FON. “FON is a telco business. It is about shipping boxes. This [Whisher] is more about promoting a community than acting like an ISP. If you want to start just with your friends, do it. Because over time you will be global,” Moreno told Business 2.0. How?

Anyway, once you are done with the salacious pleasure provided by the dueling corporate dons, come back and read about why Whisher might be overhyped.

Wanting to try out the service and compare it with FON’s rather straightforward hardware-based solution, I went to Whisher’s website, only to find the downloads so painfully slow that an 11 megabyte file would take about 31 minutes. Now that is a quick and easy way to lose prospective beta testers.

The software, once downloaded, is easy to install, and you can use the software to register with the system. For now, that is the only way to register, though they do have a “register” link on their website.

After downloading, you can easily share your bandwidth with other Internet users, without changing the security settings. Whisher allows you to set up buddy lists of your friends and visitors, who can share your wireless connection without using your password or “network key.” Eventually there will be other features that would be added to Whisher, including file sharing.

Whisher is a great tool to discover Wi-Fi networks, a task that is also done admirably by say a Kismac or an iStumbler. Its sharing ambitions are laudable; except they are can come a-cropper when faced with the draconian terms of service most broadband service providers impose on us.

Whisher is a great piece of software, clean and elegant. Still, one is hard pressed to see how this company will make money in the future, and thus build a sustainable business. Those who had questioned the validity of FON’s business model should question Whisher’s as well.

Of course, it could be my limited imagination, or simple cynicism that comes after hanging around Silicon Valley too long, and watching mediocrity rear its ugly head again and again. Whisher, from the press reports, has been quick to point to its links with Swisscom, a marginal European incumbent, which is known mostly for its decision to become the guinea pig for the great Microsoft IPTV experiment. What is more confounding is that Whisher has received the backing of Benchmark Capital, who clearly should know better.

  1. […] Om Malik thinks Whisher is overhyped and seriously doubts the business model behind this project. […] What’s cool though is that, even if publicity, Martin Varsavsky’s Roman wresling with Ferran Moreno is in the news and promoting Whisher.[…] from Wirelessisfun.com live coverage of DEMO on Whisher launch unfolding.

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  2. OK. So if I’m understanding this right Whisher stores the WEP key for all the access points and distributes it to anyone who wants to use it. I’m then reliant on the Whisher software, which appears to be closed source and therefore uncheckable by anyone else, to maintain the security of the rest of my network. Erm, no.

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  3. It stores all the users WEP/WPA keys on their central server, and you collect them locally (The ones you require).

    To me the big issues are, it’s software and you need your PC on, or you can’t share. What about security of my LAN? A physical AP I can control more, whisher does not give me that. How long is it before someone hacks their DB, and we just do not need the client anymore.

    Also I see no business model, and their amazing hyped countdown was a major anti-climax. Also, I needed to seperataly install DLL to get the client to work.

    First impressions.

    A dead loss

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  4. I wouldn’t be quite so quick to wear my ignorance on my sleeve by describing Swisscom as ‘a marginal incumbent’.

    I’m not a fan of its wifi offerings, myself, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a city in Europe where it doesn’t control a large proportion of the hotspots. Hotels, in particular.

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  5. One other thing, and here I draw a comparison to Skype..

    Skype, even if it had only two users, has value… those two users can talk to each other, and for free… and obviously, with that benefit, those two users will spread the word.. I’m sure pretty much all of us can say hand on heart, we’ve recommended Skype to someone we know at some point (However, Gizmo Project is better ;-)

    Whisher does not really offer that immediate value. It’s been more than 24 hours, and the maps show next to no movement in terms of new users. As such is the forum, no movement, and functional errors (Try looking in the lounge where it says theres posts, but then when you click on it, it says there are none).

    There “Linux” version was “Currently being uploaded, please try back in a few minutes…” after hours and hours, of the same message, this then changed to the linux download being grayed out…

    It’s evident beyond any doubt, the whole thing has been hap hazardly rushed out in a poor attempt to meet a well over due deadline.

    So, thats two “major” new product messes… Whisher and Vista…

    Moreno’s “community” will be confined to a small group, smaller than Fons. I think we can agree that Fon will win this

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  6. @ John – I agree, you do find Swisscom hotspots in many locations, especially hotels, but seriously who can afford to use their services???

    I very much prefer to log-on to a fon acces point which so far worked very well for me!

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  7. I have Whisher running and it clearly has potential to become much better than all the other non-captive hotspots models (like FON).

    Aside from airports and hotels and may be restaurants, it is very hard to expect any revenue from any other hotspots. Therein lies FON’s problems. It is doubtful they have any meaningful service revenue at all. The only solution I see for their woes is to make their low cost router a full blown router – and become another router vendor. That is a daunting task, but it seems to be their only option to survive. Today you can install better 3rd. party firmware on the Fonera and it becomes a better router, so there is some potential if they went that route. Their other choice was to become a voice operators for wi-fi phones, but the competition is little tough there and they don’t control people’s DSL or cable.

    As for Whisher, yes, their customer service and support is as bad as FON today and their site is still semi stealth. Let’s wait and see.

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  8. WHISHER : Wifi gratuit partout…

    Une nouvelle start-up espagnole vient de voir le jour et a été dévoilée au DEMO 2007, il s’agit de WHISHER.

    Créée par Ferran Moreno ce dernier n’a pas hésité à utiliser un superbe buzz pour se répandre sur la toile.

    En effet ce dernier …

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  9. Hi William

    May I ask you why you think our customer service and support is so bad? Because so far we’ve answered to all the requests and solved almost all…

    Otherwise please let me know because we can help you out for sure.

    Regards,

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