There were lots of hints that Steve Jobs was interested in changing the way we all access the internet on the devices he helped create. Back in 2011 there were reports that Apple considered developing its own network for the original iPhone that could potentially replace traditional carrier services using Wi-Fi spectrum. Before that rumours claimed Jobs was interested in Fon, a WiFi sharing service that encourages users to share wireless internet access with others. Today, Walt Mossberg from ReCode shares another story about Jobs’ interest in a world of shared Wi-Fi, describing a conversation between the two where Jobs shared his vision of making free Wi-Fi the norm:
The first iPhone had a lousy, sluggish, cellular-data network, but it also had a much faster data option: Wi-Fi. It even had a feature (still present, but much less touted) that popped up a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks on the screen, so you could always find one in range… But, he once told me, there was a big problem with that technique, one that he wanted to fix: Most of the Wi-Fi networks that popped up on his screen couldn’t be used, because they were secured with passwords. Jobs said he understood the need for security, but he was determined to figure out a way to make free, safe, Wi-Fi sharing from homes and small local businesses not only possible, but common.
Mossberg also claims that Jobs planned to “get other companies involved, in a sort of consortium” to make his vision a reality. The plan, according to the report, was to get manufacturers building wireless routers to build-in an option for a shared, guest network walled off from the user’s personal home network. “Then, he hoped that the industry would encourage people to share their bandwidth with strangers via these guest networks. That way, a smartphone user could walk around, moving from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another, without logging in — much like people using cellular data move from one cell tower to another.”
The report notes that Apple and others have since built in a guest network option into their wireless routers, but that it’s unclear if that came as part of Jobs’ push for the feature or how far along he actually came in developing his idea.