Last August, Business 2.0 magazine published an article that speculated Google was considering building a U.S. broadband network capable of targeting specific advertising to users, based on the location of their WiFi. The so-called "Google.net"" or "Google WiFi" caused much speculation, however, the company remained close-lipped.
Tuesday, Google finally made an official announcement. Google spokesman Nate Tyler said the current test is limited to two public sites near the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters: a pizza parlor and a gym.
These two sites join a Google-sponsored Wi-Fi "hotspot" in San Francisco's Union Square shopping district.
"Google WiFi is a community outreach program to offer free wireless access in areas near our headquarters," Tyler said.
"At this stage in development, we're focused on collecting feedback from users. We'll determine next steps as the product evolves," he said.
There you have it! Google WiFi is a "community outreach program". That sounds innocent enough, and apparently Google has no immediate plans to become an ISP, put WiFi providers out of business, or otherwise take over the world.
I admit I'm a bit of a "Google cynic", but I rather like the idea of a corporation extending its technology to the surrounding community. However, the final statement from Mr. Tyler clearly mentions a "product" and active "development" of that product.
What do you see as the potential ramifications of a widespread "Google WiFi" service? I invite your comments.
Lots of views, but very few opinions/comments. I'm surprised. I personally have mixed feelings. As I said, I'm a bit of a cynic, and the idea of an ever-more pervasive Google rings alarm bells.
On the other hand, widespread, free, Google-sponsored WiFi would have some interesing side-effects. I think it's a given that the service would carry AdSense/AdWords ads. It's no stretch to imagine that they would be geo-targeted to the specific WiFi region. Imagine getting ads from the store across the parking lot. Would those be effective? Think, why click the ad? I'll just walk over, if I'm really interested.
With an increasing number of PDAs and web-enabled cell-phones, widespread free WiFi could spur the development of more "mobile-enabled" web sites.
Discuss? Debate? What impact do you think widespread Google WiFi would have?