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April 16, 2006

The Next Huge Thing – What It Looks Like


If you were in one of the California cities of Santa Clara, Cupertino, or Sunnyvale using the free WiFi offered by MetroFi to read Fractals of Change, this is what your browser window (Internet Explorer version) would look like.  Notice that above the banner for Fractals of Change, there is a full screen horizontal bar with an ad in it and a chance to perform a search.  The ad rotates whether you are refreshing the banner or not.  I’ve seen both Google and Yahoo show up as the search engine.

The price of this sponsored service is the space on your screen that you give to MetroFi in which to display ads. You get one meg access for it (as good or better than most DSL) so not a bad deal.


In theory (and perhaps in practice), your location could also be pinpointed within a couple of blocks.  MetroFi offers advertisers the opportunity to target by “city, region, or zip code” which makes me think that the ads you see almost certainly depend on where you are.  That could be done by supplying different feeds to different antennae and doesn’t necessarily mean that your location is being tracked explicitly.  The search does not appear to be customized to a location.

BTW, cell phones can be tracked to the tower they are using even if they don’t explicitly have GPS capability as many do.

You are required to give an email address for “security reasons” when you sign up for the free service.  I’m not quite sure what that means or who is being secured against whom.

MetroFi says they will also have an ad-free service at $19.95/month.  This ad-free service was part of their winning bid to unwire Portland, Oregon. So you know exactly what that 728x90 pixel area on your screen is worth.

Note to Fellow Nerds

I was not in any of the cities served by MetroFi when I captured this screen shot.  There’s a hint at how I found if you look at the text that popped up as I moused over the back button in my browser.

Figure it out yet?

OK.   Here’s the answer.  I use a service called Site Meter to see how many people are reading my blog.  In most cases, it can give me the referring URL that led people to my site.  I noticed this strange URL: http://www.ifreespot.com/sites/cup-mf/index.shtml?url=http://blog.tomevslin.com/2006/03/free_business_i.html so I clicked on it (note: clicking on strange URLs can be dangerous to your computer’s health). When I clicked on it, I linked to the page server of the free service even though my access is not through MetroFi. 

This tells us that someone got to Fractals of Change through the free service and, if you’re a nerd, also tells you a lot about how they manage to get the ad into the browser window.  Actually pretty straightforward; capable of being misused but not indicative of misuse.

I think sponsored WiFi covering all cities in the US within the next three or four years is going to be the foundation for the next huge opportunity.  Posted on that here.

Posted on the potential problem of muniopolies here.

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