Hotspots are growing by leaps and bounds, and so, it seems, are Web sites devoted to finding them.
WiFi 411 is the latest such hotspot directory. The site officially launched today with listings for more than 8,900 hotspots around the world.
Visitors to the site can search for hotspots by country, state, city or network provider, as well as by the type of location (e.g., airport, coffee shop, hotel or park). In addition to the hotspot’s address, users can find out its wireless network name (SSID), which 802.11 protocol it supports, and if it charges for wireless access.
Carlos Fernandez, the founder of the Los Angeles-based company and a former marketing manager for Boingo Wireless, said that there’s a need for a continually updated, comprehensive hotspot directory that’s not being met by the existing offerings. He feels his background with Boingo gives him an advantage since he’s already developed relationships with so many of the network providers.
There are currently 136 network providers in the directory, but Fernandez said he maintains a list of more than 250 worldwide, and is always adding to the directory. He uses special software that searches the network providers’ databases to determine when they have added hotspot locations. End users also notify him about new hotspots, he said.
Of course, needing an Internet connection to find out where the closest Internet connection is can sometimes be a bit of a quandary, which is why Fernandez is working on a downloadable client for laptops and PDAs so that users can have a version of the database available on their devices for offline viewing, too. The client would automatically update itself in the presence of an Internet connection so that it would always be up-to-date.
Listings on WiFi 411 are free to search and enter. Fernandez said he hopes to eventually sell ads on the site and to license the database for private labeling to companies such as Dell and Palm.
Hotspots have seen tremendous growth over the last three years. According to research firm In-Stat/MDR, the number of commercial hotspots worldwide will grow from 12,235 locations in 2002 to 145,417 locations worldwide in 2007.