What does wifi stand for? It stands for less than most think, but more than most know.
What Does WiFi Stand For?
While people use the term all the time, it may surprise you to know that most people have no idea what “WiFi” actually means. Then again, maybe it is not a surprise to you at all, because there is a good chance you do not know what it stands for neither.
Many people think that WiFi stands for wireless fidelity. And, technically, it kind of does, depending on how you look at it. The truth is that WiFi doesn’t really stand for anything. Surprised? Here is a look at how that came about.
What is WiFi?
WiFi is the main form of wireless network connectivity that most people use to connect to the Internet or to network devices wirelessly. It is an industry standard, and there are several flavors of it.
While most people call it WiFi, a better name would probably be WLAN, because a wireless local area network is literally what it is. With WiFi, people have the ability at connect any compatible devices to each other wirelessly without the need for complicated setups or processes.
More technically, WiFi is a term for the IEEE 802.11b standard. The IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. They are a professional association dedicated to technology in general, not just wireless networks or computer networking. However, they set standards, of which WiFi is one.
What’s In a Name?
Once upon a time, way back in the late 90s, there were some problems when it came to WiFi connectivity and interoperability. While many devices followed the IEEE 802.11 standard, they still did not always play nice with each other.
A group known as the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) was trying to push a new standard, 802.11b, which promised better performance, compliance, and interoperability with far more devices. They called this new standard WiFi.
Now, WECA consisted of some large name developers and manufacturers. In addition, they had the support of some giant industry sponsors. This meant that WiFi had the backing it needed to become an industry standard. Mainly because, the industry itself backed it.
What is and what could’ve been?
Unfortunately, IEEE 802.11b simply did not sound sexy. Because of that, WECA hired an actual branding company to help them figure out what to call the standard. Here are a few of the possibilities that did not make it:
The one that stuck was Wi-Fi. Not only did it stick, but it was trademarked. To protect that trademark WECA became the Wi-Fi Alliance. Notice that the official and trademarked term is “Wi-Fi.” It’s not WiFi, Wifi, or wifi.
Wi-Fi is the official way to spell it, and that is how you see it on products with the Wi-Fi certification logo. However, it’s perfectly fine to use it as WiFi or Wifi if you want. After all, doing it that way avoids using a registered trademark.
Why it’s nonsense…
If you know anything about branding, you will know that a name doesn’t technically have to mean anything. It is more about how the word makes you feel or what kind of images it invokes.
Wi-Fi is a nonsense word. It does not mean anything at all. It just sounds like it means something. But there is a definite reason why it does.
Why people think it’s wireless fidelity, or, why it’s not nonsense
One of the things that Wi-Fi sounds like is Hi-Fi, which is high fidelity. While the similarities are on purpose, there is something to be said for the comparison.
If you were around at any point during the 60s up until the 90s, you probably remember the term Hi-Fi going around quite a lot. It referred to high quality sound.
The word became quite ubiquitous as a marketing term. You would hear about Hi-Fi stereos, and Hi-Fi sound. Note that one of the definitions for the word fidelity is “The degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced.”
Hi-Fi is still in use today. In fact, it became so common to use the word that people also use it to refer to things that have nothing to do with audio quality. So using Wi-Fi made sense. And that is why many people assumed that it stood for wireless fidelity.
A standard for a standard
The Wi-Fi Alliance didn’t tell people otherwise neither. They went all-in with the wireless fidelity thing, and even used it to advertise the standard. You may even have seen one of the official logos that say “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity.”
But that was just something they came up with for branding purposes. If you really think of that slogan, you will see that it’s nonsense as well. Wireless fidelity is not really a “thing.” And 802.11b is a standard. So that slogan is like saying “A Standard for a Standard.”
Since the creators of Wi-Fi themselves took to the term “wireless fidelity,” it’s not absolutely wrong to say that is what Wi-Fi stands for. Notice that the Wi-Fi Alliance has not gone out of its way to correct anyone on the subject.
Why Does Any of This Matter?
All of this matters for many reasons. There are several lessons to learn from the creation of “Wi-Fi” as a recognizable brand. Consider all of the standards out there; all the technological schemes. There are tons of them, and people use them every day.
Many of them, people would not recognize at all if they saw the logo or name. They would not trust some of them. They would not use or adopt them. You probably know many by their name brand thanks to an effort to market these standards to you.
For example, you may not know completely how USB works, or how many different kinds of USB specification there are. But you know when you see that trademarked USB logo that you can plug your device in. Wi-Fi is kind of like that.
The Wi-Fi brand
As a brand name, it is recognizable. If you see it on box, you automatically know that the product in question can utilize Wi-Fi connectivity. Keep in mind that the Wi-Fi standard is all about interoperability. The Wi-Fi Alliance is all about making that interoperability possible through certification and compliance.
If you see the official Wi-Fi logo somewhere, you know you can connect your Wi-Fi enabled device. You know you can do it without a complex setup and without needing to know the nuts-and-bolts of how all this complex technology manages to talk to each other.
That brand recognition, and the company behind it has done its job well. So, what does WiFi stand for? Well, it stands for both nothing and everything. What it really stands for is interoperability and the ability to simply and easily connect.