Startup wants to make public Wi-Fi a more social experience

A startup called Hotspotio has created a way for users to share Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook connections

There’s no doubt about it – public Wi-Fi can sometimes be a hassle. The airport wants you to pay a fee. Starbucks makes you buy an expensive mochaccino. What’s a frustrated laptop user to do?

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The answer, if a new startup called Hotspotio has anything to say about it, is likely to involve social media. The people behind the free Android app have created a way for users to share connections through social networks, in exchange for small favors like a Twitter follow or Facebook like.

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The service supports Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and keeps track of the various “favors” granted and owed in a user profile.

Hotspotio uses a GPS-enabled map to help Wi-Fi seekers discover nearby networks being shared through the service. Users can share any network they’re connected to, as long as they know the SSID and password.

Within reason, that is – founder Simon Schultz tells Network World that Hotspotio doesn’t link sharers to their sharees (except via social media), so it can’t be used to get around, for example, the captive portal security used in most for-pay Wi-Fi systems.

“We only want people to share networks that they are allowed to share,” he says.

Hotspotio, Schultz says, is essentially a sophisticated replacement for manually sharing Wi-Fi passwords, using encrypted communications to ensure security.

“See it as a substitute to exchanging post-it notes with handwritten passwords,” he says.

An iOS version is on the way, according to Schultz, who hopes that this expansion will help broaden Hotspotio’s reach. The iPhone and iPad version of the app should arrive near the beginning of 2014.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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