Making Wi-Fi As Difficult As Possible
By Mike Masnick, Fri Sep 03 23:45:00 GMT 2004

For all the wonders of Wi-Fi, people sometimes forget just how difficult it is to deal with on a daily basis.

The University of Utah's daily paper has an article talking about all the various Wi-Fi networks on campus, but instead of talking about how wonderful they are, focuses on just how annoying it is to deal with the differences found on each and every network. Each network has different rules, and different requirements to use. The library networks apparently require some sort of software application that is incompatible with other networks -- to the point that some students need to uninstall the application when they leave the library and reinstall it every time they return.

With all the talk this week about various municipalities, such as Philadelphia, Boston and Madison, Wisconsin setting up local Wi-Fi networks, it's worth remembering that the user experience still needs quite a bit of work. Even completely wide open networks aren't the easiest to connect to using common Wi-Fi applications, and as soon as any type of security is thrown in, it seems to lead to extra confusing, and often buggy, processes.

While it's great to see more efforts focused on bringing more Wi-Fi to more places, isn't it also time that someone focused on making the whole process of connecting to various Wi-Fi connections, no matter who controls them or how they're set up, less of a hassle? Only when that process is effectively invisible will the concept really breakthrough to the mainstream. A lot more people are using Wi-Fi in their homes and in their offices, where they can set it up once and forget about it, but using Wi-Fi anywhere else just involves too many settings and configuration issues. While some companies obviously are thinking about these issues, they are mostly focused for specific network users, and not across the board usage. A more generalized solution could go a long way in promoting more hotspot usage.