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Summary:

First Fon, then Whisher and now WeFi – the start-ups focused on sharing of Wi-Fi connections keep on coming. Of course, each one has their own twist. FON does this through their own hardware (or by partnering with carriers), Whisher is a software only play. The […]

First Fon, then Whisher and now WeFi – the start-ups focused on sharing of Wi-Fi connections keep on coming. Of course, each one has their own twist. FON does this through their own hardware (or by partnering with carriers), Whisher is a software only play. The latest entrant is WeFi, a LondonMountain View, Calif.-based company that has released a new software that allows you to find, and log into wireless networks. (Download it from here. Use this key: 07ApM81D3. The software is causing weird issues for some readers, so please be careful.)

The idea is that you will sign-up for the service, and become part of a large community of those willing to share your spots. If not, then just use the software for finding and logging into open wireless networks that are around you. You get to see the signal strength of the networks, and can also help you skip over the closed (secure) networks.

The other little twist is a map, which shows you where you can find a lot of free wifi connectivity. (Maps are somewhat of an advantage for WeFi, compared to Whisher who downloadable software has made improvements in recent months, and is available for Linux, Mac and Windows computers.) I like this feature, and it is only going to become more useful as more people start adding their spots. There is a friends-feature, adding a social networking twist to the software, but that is a bit too much, and frankly, I have some privacy concerns as well.

The simple, and eye pleasing interface (that mimics and IM client) makes this software worth having, especially if you are using Windows XP based computers that, to be honest are troublesome when it comes to finding-and-connecting to WiFi networks. (No surprise, the software currently works on Windows XP machines only.)

It is a good product, yet it seems WeFi is doing too much. Keeping it simple, and avoiding the social networking features, it can become a handy utility (and must visit destination) for digital nomads. It is worth trying out.

  1. davidavdavid Monday, May 28, 2007

    What new ground is WeFi breaking, other than grabbing a catchy name and building around it? And this differs from Whisher how? I have been following Whisher closely and it would appear so are the folks at WeFi, perhaps a bit too closely :)

    I do not begrudge them their right and opportunity to create software, but where is the love and the passion? Their software is pleasing to the eye, but if Im going to add yet another vertical stripe (AdiumX, Skype, Twitterific, Whisher) to my desktop I ask: Why WeFi?

  2. Well, I was in London last week and trying to find a good, free Wi-Fi connection. I refuse to pay 4 UK pounds per hour, which is what some providers are charging. Because there are a LOT of open networks in London, it’s a pain trying each one of them to see which is the best. I have no time to diddle around. This is what Wefi does for you — selects the best open network.

    Second thing is that they have a map where the users themselves map out free spots. So before going to a particular location in London, I check the map to see where I should park myself. Very handy.

  3. Loving it! Everyone feel free to use everyone’s WiFi and visit the Pirate Bay with someone else’s IP. That’s what I call social wireless networking!

    /sarcasm

  4. David,

    I think it is easier to try it and decide for yourself. I think while many of Mac users don’t have to deal with the Wi-Fi madness, it surely makes life easier for PC users.

    If nothing else, the maps can guide you where you can find lot of free (open) wifi connections.

  5. franky… good point ;-)

  6. WeFi: Otra startup basada en compartir wifi – Online Monday, May 28, 2007

    [...] Visto en GigaOm [...]

  7. The real twist: WeFi uses social (community) search engine approach to facilitate Internet access everywhere… the resources map is just the tip of the iceberg; any time you connect you add useful information to the system database: in addition to WiFi location we got access point’s service quality, accessibility, visibility, persistency etc. The WeFi client uses this info to connect you in the best way. Consequently WeFi users will see a constantly improving service…

  8. Arnon Kohavi Monday, May 28, 2007

    What separates WeFi from other companies mentioned is that we have developed a “smart” client, which finds and connects faster. This is different than companies that focus on sharing or authentication. We believe that over time the issue will be not just to find a connection, but also to find the best one. So sharing is part of the story, but the main part is simply finding a good connection by making the WiFi client much smarter, which happens by seamlessly sharing the knowledge of all users in an area through a centralized server (not unlike what a cellular system does). As a Mac user, I am still challenged to find a good spot many times, having to go through a tedious trial-and-error process. I promise to have a Mac version too; we are working on it. Obviously, the biggest long-term benefit is for mobile devices, where seamless connection to WiFi will become critical.
    By the way, we are a US company, based in Mountain View with R&D in Israel.
    Arnon, CEO. WeFi.

  9. davidavdavid Monday, May 28, 2007

    Arnon, thank you for your post. This clarifies to some extent WeFi’s niche that it plans to carve out in the neighborhood. The biggest selling point to me is not being able to search out the open networks on a Windows (netsumbler) and or a Macintosh (kismac, macstumbler, istumbler). That has been taken care of. The above mentioned applications do a fine job of sorting and filtering out open versus closed wireless networks.

    The mapping looks nice but and I hazard that if you are going to pre-plan your sojourn with computer in tow then it can be rather useful, but for spontaneous, on-the-fly decisions, the most important feature would be for the computer to connect and handshake with the STRONGEST, CLOSEST, OPEN (non-encrypted) network.

    Again the maps are nice if the information is current and up to date. On a number of occasions I have relied on the wireless maps of several US cities only to find that the access points in question were no longer transmitting a signal, or even there for that matter.

    Now, am curious why at the end of your post you saw fit to mention the provenance of your company. I for one do not care where you are located, and from which your country R&D hails as long as it works. To your point about seamless networking (meshed networks) with troublefree/transparent handoffs, we’re all waiting for such a day. For now I’ll settle for what I can make happen with Meraki for linkin wireless nodes.

    All the best
    David

  10. WeFi sucks! DO NOT INSTALL IT. I read Om’s post with real excitement since something like this would be useful, downloaded the app and installed it. It promptly blue-screened my laptop and every restart kept crashing the laptop until I manually shut off the wireless radio, went to Network Connections and disabled my wireless adapter. THen I went to Add/Remove programs to remove WeFi but THERE IS NO UNINSTALL option !!!!

    Not only do these guys install a network filter driver in the WiFi stack but if you go to Netwok Connections/ Properties to Uninstall it through Windows it refuses to uninistall since it says the application ‘WeFi’ is still using it (of course there is no way to uninstall WeFi from ARP).

    Suffice it to say that 1 hr later after a very frustrating morning of debugging the stack I had renamed their driver, disabled it from the mini driver stack so I could reconnect to my wifi network again. I am not an average user; i used to work at MSFT in Windows so know how to do this. I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND THIS to an average user if this is the user experience. The support page on the website has no way to uninstall it nor is there an uninstall script in the install directory.

    Before relasing client software like this that can destroy someone’s machine it needs to be thoroughly tested.

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