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How Fon is building a social layer on top of Wi-Fi, starting with music

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Fon may be known as a community Wi-Fi provider, opening up millions of home routers worldwide to its members. But the company is evolving into a much different animal, using Wi-Fi not just for internet access’s sake but as a powerful presence and social media tool, according to Fon COO Alex Puregger.

On stage at Gigaom’s Structure Connect conference in San Francisco, Puregger showed off Fon’s new Gramofon router, a Wi-Fi access point that pulls double duty as a cloud music player. The device, which started shipping this week, connects to your stereo to pass your Spotify music stream over to your home speakers. Using Facebook authentication, your friends can not only log into your Wi-Fi network but also log into your stereo, playing their own Spotify streams.

Music is just the start, Puregger said. By tying the social graphs of Fon users to their presence – i.e. when they’re logged into a specific hotspot – Fon can build all sorts of contextualized services, Puregger said. As Fon moves out of the home and into small businesses, it could offer hyperlocal advertising and couponing services as well as mobile payments.

The example of music is a powerful one that Puregger kept coming back to. Imagine that all of the customers at a coffee shop or a bar logging into the Wi-Fi network, sharing their music preferences as well. The business could customize its music to the collective tastes of its patrons at any given movement.

Photo by Jakub Mosur

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Structure Connect Ticker

One Response to “How Fon is building a social layer on top of Wi-Fi, starting with music”

  1. Yet another Internet jukebox might have been exciting 10 years ago, but now we carry our music on our phones. Show me the raging interest in this “Gramafon”? Who even has a stand-alone stereo now? I would also like to see the mfgr date on it’s circuit board. Circa 2004? Gizmodo and Engadget were talking about such things back then. Even Fon’s unfulfilled flirting about “business services” places them 10 years behind the times.

    Fon doesn’t offer millions of it’s own routers to it’s users. It only has a few tens of thousands. However, it throws open it’s routers for free use of as many “partners” as it can, and counts THEIR access points as Fon’s own. Fon sells re-badged factory seconded equipment, whatever is available, so their “revolutionary forays” are practically random. Justified after the fact. Their router customers are enticed with a chance to make a bit of money (under very irregular terms) sharing their bandwidth, but Fon circumvents the profit sharing mechanisms. This way, Fon gets it’s customers to pay for the equipment deployment, as well as donate the backhauls, locations, and local promotion. Then they sit back and skim the profits. They’re in the business of being paid to remove obstacles, rather than facilitating service.

    I used to be Fon’s most widely read English fan blog at I watched Fon dispose of two whole generations of forum communities when conversation turned largely to resistance against Fon. Fon never wanted us to share our ideas, only praise I guess. I quit blogging because I do not echo suspiciously phrased corporate announcements, and prefer substantive discussion. Fon has been busy these past years re-writing their origin story AGAIN. Would you believe they’ve recently said that they’ve only just reached USA? As told by their spokeswoman who forgets to mention she’s the woman Fon’s CEO left his wife for.

    Kevin, again, I advise you to seek independent confirmation of what Fon asks you to print!