Who expected the search wars to open a new front involving WiFi? Google, Bing & Yahoo have each just announced free WiFi promotions of various sorts.
Google, which previously said it would provide free WiFi on all Virgin America flights through early next year, is now going to provide it at 47 US airports through the end of the year. A partial list includes “Las Vegas, San Jose, Boston, Baltimore, Burbank, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, St. Louis and Charlotte. Additionally, as a result of this project, Burbank and Seattle airports will begin offering airport-wide free Wi-Fi indefinitely,” says the press release. (Here’s the full list.)
According to Fortune:
Upon signing in, users will be asked if they want to set Google as their homepage or try the Google Chrome browser.
The company is also running a charity campaign to raise money for three nonprofit groups: Engineers without Borders, One Economy Corporation and Climate Savers Computing Initiative. When Google WiFi users first log on, the landing page will offer them the option of donating to the organizations. Google will match donations of up to $250,000 per airport.
For its part, Bing and JiWire will offer free WiFi at a broad range of hotspots in airports and hotels, in exchange for users conducting a search on Bing. It’s part of JiWire’s “Ads for Access” program. According to MediaPost’s article:
Microsoft’s Bing and JiWire will announce Monday an advertising campaign, along with the results, that lets consumers gain free WiFi Internet access at participating hot spots in exchange for one search on the engine.
Supported by JiWire’s mobile advertising network, which reaches about 20 million unique consumers monthly, Bing’s nationwide campaign runs across WiFi hotspots in airports and hotels.
The campaign aims to make more people aware of Bing and allow them to try the search engine, according to David Blumenfeld, senior vice president of strategy and business development at JiWire. “We’re all creatures of habit, so giving away free Internet access in exchange for one search on Bing is a great way to change user behavior,” he says.
Finally, Yahoo is providing free WiFi in New York’s Times Square, which also has a mobile angle. In 2006, Yahoo had a deal with Starwood hotels that subsidized WiFi in the chain’s Sheraton hotels. That deal is no longer in force however.
All these efforts are welcome but they’re only temporary. Eventually there will be ubiquitous WiFi/4G connectivity that will enable people out in the world to connect at higher speeds, hopefully for lower cost, than they can today through traditional WiFi networks.