Yahoo Joins The Free-WiFi Marketing Bandwagon

Free WiFi is apparently the gift of choice this holiday season from big online companies to their users. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) will provide free WiFi for an entire year in Times Square, starting tomorrow. A rep says it’s “the latest literal expression of Yahoo’s promise to be at the center of people’s online lives” — which is also a theme of the company’s $100 million ad campaign (As part of the effort, the company set up a ‘Yodel Studio’ in the square earlier this year).

This follows free WiFi promotions by both Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which were both announced this fall. Google said last month it would provide free WiFi on every Virgin America flight during the holiday season — a promotion that also starts, perhaps not coincidentally, tomorrow. As for Microsoft, it’s giving out free WiFi — but with a twist. It’s teaming up with mobile ad network JiWire to provide free WiFi at airports and hotels, as long as users agree to make one search on Bing.

MediaPost, which reported on the Microsoft WiFi promotion in a story today, quotes a JiWire executive who says the response has unsurprisingly been “off the charts” — which might explain why Yahoo and Google are so interested too. Who doesn’t jump at the possibility of getting ‘free’ stuff?