Today was a rather normal day for me: get up, go to work, leave work. But the last week has been especially unique, given that I’m enjoying all the benefits of Wi-Fi, or Wireless Fidelity, on my notebook.
For example, I spent nearly an hour and a half at Sam The Record Man today at Yonge & Dundas, using their free and unlimited Wi-Fi service (although I suspect that the more people use Wi-Fi, the less likely the “unlimited” will stay). It’s a wonderful thing, being able to connect to the web without a cable connection. Everything flows naturally, it’s a remarkably fast connection, and I can get tonnes of work done without having to be at home.
Wireless is going to change everything when it comes to the web, because right now people see the web as a stationary medium, rather than a mobile one. Think about it: everytime you go online, you’re either sitting at an Internet terminal at a library, cafe or office, or at home. Even those with notebooks still mostly have to “jack in” in order to connect, which seemingly defeats the purpose of having a mobile computer in the first place (other than to do actual work).
When Wi-Fi goes thermonuclear in terms of widespread, popular use, the web will become more than just a fancy way to send files or download music – it will be a completely integrated part of life.
To use an example, take the cellphone. It is now a indespensible part of many people’s lives. Before it hit a critical mass, some viewed it as an expensive toy. But it is a voice transmitter now, with many people using it for more than just two-way conversations. It’s a camera, MP3 player, text messaging service, pager, more things than you can count.
The same goes for Wi-Fi, given that it replaces the “voice” part with “data.” This means that we’re going to see a time in the not-too-distant future where connections can be made at any location, at any time, over wireless. This will empower both individuals and businesses to do more, but it will reinforce some essential parts of the “real world” too; cities, governments and organizations will benefit from having technology that is accessible to anyone, at anytime. The bonds of community will be enhanced through Wi-Fi.
I’m also experienced enough to say that Wi-Fi has some serious drawbacks, too. For one, wireless means you won’t have an excuse to get a document in late. More over, the need for people to be “connected” and “always on” will become even more pronounced than it is today; the addictive qualities of e-mail, IM, MP3s and web sites could become especially problematic for people who just want to sit down in a cafe, have a coffee and read the newspaper and not be surrounded by digital radio receivers.
For me, I genuinely believe that the digital revolution has done a lot more good than harm. I also believe you have to acknowledge that wireless isn’t going to be for everyone, and that the Internet’s current limitations (the big one being questions over security) will limit Wi-Fi’s usage for a few years.
But I can honestly say I love wireless, and I’m thrilled to have it.