Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is believed to have started the testing of a new WiFi hotspot service for local businesses that will allow users to access the net for free, provided they do a Facebook check-in.
The new service was first spotted by developer Tom Waddington, after noticing that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) had added a new code entry called “social WiFi” to its Page Insights tool.
The social networker plans to provide Internet service in exchange for a Facebook router that will direct customers to the business's Facebook page after they check in. It’s a smart strategy from Facebook, getting people to check-in more, adding to the social network's data pool and also pushing use of its mobile services - something that it has long identified as one of its weaker areas. The location data from this service will be extremely valuable for targeting promotions or ads at customers on mobile devices.
Facebook did confirm that it is rolling out a small test with a few local businesses. A Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) spokesperson said “We are currently running a small test with a few local businesses of a WiFi router that is designed to offer a quick and easy way to access free WiFi after checking in on Facebook. When you access Facebook WiFi by checking in, you are directed to your local business’s Facebook Page”.
“Some stores may also offer deals or specials when you check in," a Facebook spokesperson said.
Generally, free WiFi hotspots require users to enter a long list of personal information, remember a username or password, or even use their mobile number to gain access. Facebook’s service is much easier; it’s as simple as visiting the social network on your desktop or mobile device, locating where you are and checking in.
Like the Timeline, this service won’t be forced on users who do not have/want a Facebook account. Such users will still be able to access WiFi by entering a password provided by the business. The WiFi idea was the result of the company’s hack-athon session, which has also produced features including the "Like" button, Facebook messenger and video chat.