Whisher, wishing on a FON

22 Comments

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.

22 Comments

passive

Amazing, one year on and their failing still. Mr. Whisher himself puts on his blog about them being flamed, and complains, however to some extent the guy flaming him is actually right.

Whisher has achieved nothing, a pathetic small amount of users on their forums, and I would imagine an equally pathetic amount of real Whisher users.

Ferran, well this is a guy who makes a fully public declaration on http://www.tech.am/ as to what he is going to do to the guy who’s flaming them. Quite amazing comments I must say.

How did Swisscom manage to back such a lame project?

Mike Puchol

Passive:

Yes, but I don’t tell lies on my blog. Biased you say? Sure, tell me ONE blogger who is -not- biased…the problem is that people fail to admit this, at most we see the typical “Disclaimer: blah blah”, if that.

I have been critic with Fon, and receiving a free Fonera did not change my views as it has happened to a good number of people. Fon is not a competitor to Whisher if you really look at it, we can work on top of Foneras, just that the press likes to look at the gory details and confrontation. I just don’t like when someone manipulates people into believing they are joining some sort of ‘movement’, and you see the neglect and disdain they treat those very users on the forums, just as an example.

I also did an honest review of the Fonera on a hardware level, and while it gets hot, power management is not as good as it could be, and the RF side could be better laid out, it’s not a bad device. I also pointed out a serious flaw in their online maps service, that could have allowed a malicious user to reposition all their routers, and gave them information to help them fix it – following proper reporting procedure, not making it public until they had solved the issue.

So, biased, probably yes, untruthful or dishonest, definitely not.

If I am Mr. Whisher, who are you by the way? It would be nice to know where your comments are coming from…

Passive

Baudolino, the Tech.AM blog is Mike Puchols (AKA. Mr Whisher himself)

Mike Puchol

Passive:

The idea of the maps is to show the registered and tagged access points, and we will be improving them and adding new features. Since our metric of success is the number of Whisher users, not the number of access points that people register, our statistics will be published through other means – this could include figures on the map too.

You have to remember that many of the features Whisher offers work on top of any WiFi, even those which are not tagged or registered. WiFi sharing is just one of the many possibilities we offer, and certainly not the only one.

Regards,

Ferran

Mike,

The flash map shows the top cities in terms of shared WiFis, while the second (based on Google maps) shows the details at a street level of those shared WiFis.

But we don’t have any place where people can see how many Whisher registered users are, and that’s something we will be adding shorly.

I guess this is the answer to your question.

Regards,

Passive

Mike:

I thought the idea of the maps was to show information, and how many users. Are you saying this data on your web site does not reflect the real amount of users?

Mike Puchol

William:

You are right about the forums & blog – our idea was to have a seamless integration between the Whisher client and the website, so once you created an account on the client, the same login details would work with the forum and blog, thus not requiring you to re-register. This is working up to the forum database, but the linkage to the login mechanism of the web pages is being sorted. In any case, we apologize.

Working on a live site is not the same, it gives you much less flexibility in applying changes quickly, but we hope to have things resolved in a matter of hours. Our forums will be monitored by me and others at Whisher, and believe me, they -will- be treated seriously.

Passive:

We have just launched, and you don’t know our statistics. Time will tell, of course!

Passive

There seems to no major changes to anything, forums, application, errors…

The number of users is tiny, so I assume that “support” is not really required anyway at this time.

I think any of the downloads, and possible registrations will be just people who have a passing interest, which will play with it, and then walk away.

Time will tell if I am wrong, but I doubt it

William

Hi Ferran,

The comment was based on the fact that we cannot post in the forums and that there are no news on the site as to possible problems fixed, or updates, as well as the maps are not showing actual users. There is a general lack of news on the site, do you agree?

Now as for the forums that may be a good thing, Fon has forums which are not treated seriously and the worst things are said there.

Thanks.

Ferran

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,

William

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.

Nina

@ 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!

Passive

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

John Handelaar

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.

Passive

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

SImon

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.

Dan

[…] 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.

Comments are closed.