I just found out what Wi-Fi means and it's sending me

Wifi is available here sign

One of our favourite stories of the year, originally published on July 26, 2022.

Wi-Fi is something most of us use every day. It's a miraculous technology that allows us to communicate and share large amounts digital information to multiple devices without the use of cables. Requesting a Wi-Fi password is almost akin to asking for a drink of water in many houses and establishments. But what does it mean? If you're anything like me, all your guesses are going to be wrong. 

Wireless Fidelity? Wrong. Wireless Finder? Nope. Withering Fireballs? Not even close, my friend.

According to MIC quoting this interview from 2005 by Boing Boing, Wi-Fi doesn't mean any of these things, and in fact actually means basically nothing at all. Rather, Wi-Fi was a name settled on between a group now known as the Wi-Fi alliance and some brand consultants from Interbrand agency. This kinda feels like when you find out a friend has actually been going by their middle name for years.

The original term IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence was seeming a bit of a hard push in the slogan driven 90s, so the alliance was on the hunt for something a bit more marketable. Ten names were proposed by the brand agency, and in the end the group settled on Wi-Fi, despite the emptiness the name holds. Though a meaningless name didn't work for everyone.


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"The only reason that you hear anything about 'wireless fidelity' is some of my colleagues in the group were afraid. They didn't understand branding or marketing. They could not imagine using the name 'Wi-Fi' without having some sort of literal explanation," said Wi-Fi Alliance founding member, Phil Belanger, in the interview. "So we compromised and agreed to include the tag line 'The Standard for Wireless Fidelity' along with the name. 

"This was a mistake and only served to confuse people and dilute the brand."

A word that many of us say potentially several times a day is actually straight up marketing nonsense. 

So Wi-Fi means nothing, but maybe it's the friends we made along the way? After all, we're currently skipping ahead from Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 7, and it hasn't even been certified yet. You can get Wi-Fi range extenders, USB adapters, update Wi-Fi drivers, and connect to Wi-Fi all day long. Wi-Fi truly is a sweet smelling piece of tech, no matter the name.

Hope Corrigan
Hardware Writer

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Vooks.net. Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast right here.

No, she’s not kidding.