We Finally Know What “Wi-Fi” Means – and it’s not at all What You Think

We Finally Know What "Wi-Fi" Means - and it's not at all What You Think
We Finally Know What "Wi-Fi" Means - and it's not at all What You Think

Let me ask you a question: what does the name “Wi-Fi” mean? Given how ubiquitous Wi-Fi connections are, this should be an easy question to answer, especially if you work in technology.

If your answer is “wireless precision,” it’s actually wrong, despite what you’ve been led to believe, so keep guessing. Maybe it’s “wireless fiber? “Wishful thinking fire dragon”?

Give up? Actually, it’s a trick question: the name means nothing.

Let me ask you a question: what does the name “Wi-Fi” mean? Given how ubiquitous Wi-Fi connections are, this should be an easy question to answer, especially if you work in technology.

We Finally Know What “Wi-Fi” Means – and it’s not at all What You Think

If your answer is “wireless precision,” it’s actually wrong, despite what you’ve been led to believe, so keep guessing. Maybe it’s “wireless fiber? “Wishful thinking fire dragon”?

Give up? Actually, it’s a trick question: the name means nothing.

The original name for Wi-Fi was “IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence,” and the Alliance knew that name couldn’t be used. They needed something more memorable if the standard was going to get widespread adoption, so “Wi-Fi” was chosen.

We Finally Know What "Wi-Fi" Means - and it's not at all What You Think
We Finally Know What “Wi-Fi” Means – and it’s not at all What You Think

Mistakes were made.

If you honestly thought Wi-Fi meant “wireless precision,” blame the Wi-Fi Alliance. Belenger says that some of his colleagues felt the need to explain what “Wi-Fi” meant because they apparently couldn’t accept the fact that the name was just marketing nonsense designed to attract people. This led the Alliance to create the slogan “The Wireless Accuracy Standard.”

Belanger admits that “it was a mistake and only confused people…” He called it “a clumsy attempt to come up with two words that matched Wi and Fi.” That mistake was compounded when the Alliance printed hats and T-shirts with the slogan. The slogan was so successful that even the U.S. military called it “wireless fidelity” (opens in a new tab).

And if you stop to think about it, that title makes no sense either. Fidelity, in the technical sense, refers to how well a device can reproduce a signal. High fidelity reproduction (hi-fi) Televisions, for example, can reproduce images that can be mistaken for the real thing. But Wi-Fi doesn’t do that; it’s just a way of connecting devices to each other. You’re not reproducing anything.

But why let facts get in the way of a popular misconception? In the nearly two decades since then, people have internalized this inaccurate meaning and, if you ask them, are likely to argue vehemently that Wi-Fi means “wireless precision.” Belanger, however, asks people to do their part and “forget the slogan” and its false meaning.

Wi-Fi accessories.

Perhaps it’s better to focus less on the meaning of the term and more on what the technology means to us.

Wi-Fi is an integral part of society, and it’s hard to imagine life without it. How many times have we asked a friend what the password for Wi-Fi is when you come to their house for the first time? And many of us get frustrated when the Wi-Fi suddenly goes out.

If you often experience connectivity outages, we recommend getting Wi-Fi extenders. Also known as boosters, these devices push the signal beyond its normal reach. You should also consider buying a high-quality router to better handle multiple devices that require a large fraction of the bandwidth.

As for the future, many companies are working hard to adopt the Wi-Fi 7 standard. Qualcomm even claims that its Wi-Fi 7-compatible chip will be able to achieve speeds of 5.8 Gbps and latency of less than 2 milliseconds. And Mediatek promises that its Wi-Fi 7 platform will deliver speeds 100 times faster than the current British broadband standard.

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