Local Websites Provided By Wi-Fi

I've been wondering why businesses haven't been using Wi-Fi hotspots to connect more with their customers.

Many Wi-Fi hotspots start with a 'Captive Portal' mode . . . this allows the hotspot owner to redirect the user to a webpage when he first connects. This is usually a terms and conditions of use, or a sign-in page for subscribers . . after which the user connects to the internet as you know it.

This first webpage could equally well be offers from local businesses, or a message board or social networking services specific to that location.

There were a number of ideas like this floating around a few years ago when Wi-Fi was 'Hot' (2002/2006). (Neigbornode, now defunct, and Place Site, no activity since 2006). I wonder if they might have been a little bit before their time - Wi-fi access back then meant a large laptop with short battery life. In 2009, there are netbooks a plenty, iPhones and Android phones, all with Wi-Fi and browsers.

If this sounds a bit theoretical - here's a concrete commercial example. You're running a small restaurant near a busy bar . . . you set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. A patron of the bar connects to tweet or check their facebook . . . but the first page the user sees is a review of your restaurant or the night's specials. Direct, relevant, location based advertising to a qualified prospect!

This is a kind of 'Wi-fi sponsorship' model - but there's been an explosion of interest in social networking. Local websites with users linked to facebook profiles and twitter could add a new communication channel to a location or an event.

I'm in Manchester (UK) and I'm intested in experimenting with this in different locations. I'm not sure there's a big Web 2.0 IPO in this . . . but I'm sure there's hundreds of ways it could be use to good effect, creating a huge amount of value locally.

Posted by Alexander at August 4, 2009 04:20 PM

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