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The Meaning of 'Wi-Fi'

Has anybody ever wondered what Wi-Fi means? I have, though I never got a satisfactory answer to it and I still have no idea why it's called Wi-Fi. 

Actually, I kind of thought the "Wi" part stood for wireless since it is a wireless connection but I couldn't wrap my head around the "Fi" part and what it could be in relation to the whole term.

It turns out, it doesn't mean anything. It's all a bunch of marketing hokum.

Wi-Fi Alliance founding member Phil Belanger shared the history of the term with Boing Boing back in 2005. It seems the wireless industry was seeking a user-friendly name to refer to technology that adhered to standards known as IEEE 802.11.
“We needed something that was a little catchier than ‘IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence,’” he explained. The Wi-Fi Alliance hired Interbrand to come up with ideas, and the brand consultancy proposed 10 names, including Wi-Fi (which sounds lot like “hi-fi,” AKA “high fidelity”).

(Image credit: Rawpixel/Pexels)


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From our pal Boing Boing:
Phil Belanger, a founding member of the Wi-Fi Alliance who presided over the selection of the name "Wi-Fi" writes:
Wi-Fi doesn't stand for anything.

It is not an acronym. There is no meaning. [...]

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. 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. For the first year or so( circa 2000) , this would appear in all of our communications. I still have a hat and a couple of golf shirts with the tag line. Later, when Wi-Fi was becoming more successful and we got some marketing and business people from larger companies on the board, the alliance dropped the tag-line.

This tag line was invented after the fact. After we chose the name Wi-Fi from a list of 10 names that Interbrand proposed. The tag line was invented by the initial six member board and it does not mean anything either. If you decompose the tag line, it falls apart very quickly. "The Standard"? The Wi-Fi Alliance has always been very careful to stay out of inventing standards. The standard of interest is IEEE 802.11. The Wi-Fi Alliance focuses on interoperability certification and branding. It does not invent standards. It does not compete with IEEE. It complements their efforts. So Wi-Fi could never be a standard. And "Wireless Fidelity" - what does that mean? Nothing. It was a clumsy attempt to come up with two words that matched Wi and Fi. That's it.
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That is just wrong. Hi-Fi is indeed a shortened version of High Fidelity. Wi-Fi is for Wireless Fidelity. The first encryption for wi-fi was WEP: WIred Equivalent of Privacy, an attempt to give wireless communications the same privacy as a network cable.
The current standard is WPA: Wi-Fi Protected Access which is an acronym made, in part, from an abbreviation which in turn was created to sound like a marketing term (Hi-Fi) from a time before stereo for a technology (vinyl records) that died before many of us were alive.
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