By Stephanie Kinch, Wi-Fi NOW Staff Writer
Google got its name from a spelling mistake when a co-founder misspelled “Googol”. Starbucks got its name from a character in the literary classic Moby Dick. LEGO is a combination of “leg godt” – Danish for “play well”.
So how about Wi-Fi?
The origins of the name Wi-Fi are equally as simple as those iconic brands. As Wi-Fi founding father Cees Links – today general manager of Qorvo Wireless Connectivity – puts it: “Wi-Fi was a good name that everyone at the time liked and that everyone could pronounce.”
Cees and his wife Angela Champness were closely involved with the Wi-Fi naming process. It all started 17 years ago when a group of wireless Internet-related companies came together to form The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Association.
“At the time, if two IEEE 802.11 products didn’t work together, the two companies would point to each other and say, ‘that’s not my problem’” says Cees. “We needed to establish a certification body to make sure that if someone said they were compliant they actually were.”
At the time, the only term to describe this wireless Internet compliance was IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence. That isn’t exactly a memorable name so the association hired branding consultants to come up with something catchier. They came back with a list of suggestions that, according to Cees, “over time, everyone has forgotten.”
Even “Wi-Fi” didn’t stand out at first. Cees says that when he first saw the name and logo he was not enthusiastic about it. But it stuck, and everyone agreed that it was the best candidate.
‘Wi-Fi’ spreads to every country in the world
The name means nothing and everything at the same time. It rhymes with “Hi-Fi,” a popular term in the TV and audio industry. “People said that wireless fidelity is a good way to express what we wanted to achieve,” says Cees.
Sometimes the simplest solution is the most successful one, and that certainly rings true for Wi-Fi the brand. Google Trends is an online tool tracking the use of words on the Internet. Data from Google Trends shows that the use of the term “Wi-Fi” has increased at a steady rate since 2004 and is used in every country in the world.
The brand is as familiar as Kleenex and it’s probably asked for even more often. “Most brand names come and go,” says Cees. “Back in year 2000, could I have imagined how popular Wi-Fi would become in 2017? Definitely not,” he says.
The Wi-Fi boom continues
You probably know the rest of the story. The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Association was renamed the Wi-Fi Alliance, and owns the rights to the Wi-Fi brand. Hundreds of companies are members of the alliance and since 2000 more than 35,000 products have received Wi-Fi certification.
And as for that IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence as a brand name? It’s ancient history now.