App Offers Free Wi-Fi for Favors. What Could Go Wrong?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 11 2013 11:12 AM

App Offers Free Wi-Fi for Favors. What Could Go Wrong?

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What to do if a "free Wi-Fi" sign is a lie?

Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

They said there’d be Wi-Fi at this conference. In fact, that’s how you sold your boss on the trip to Miami. Now you’re stuck in this presentation trying to stealthily respond to emails, but it’s the end of the month and you used up the last of your data playing “The Fox” for anyone that would listen and your boss is texting, “Where are you?!” and man, you could really use a friend with a hotspot. Except you don’t know a soul at this conference—which makes you a double liar, since you also said this would be a “great networking opportunity.”

If you’ve ever found yourself in this weirdly specific scenario, then may I suggest the Hotspotio app? Hotspotio allows people to gift their Wi-Fi in exchange for favors, like a beer at the hotel bar or a shout-out tweet. With just a few clicks and some good faith, you could be ripping off reply-alls like you never left the office.

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So yes, perhaps this app does make it slightly easier to access Wi-Fi, though it’s becoming increasingly rare that you’re out of range of a Starbucks or McDonald’s. And really, I think the conference scenario is about as good as it gets. Offering up your tether rights could be a good way to meet attendees, gain Twitter followers, or get some press for a new product. (Or maybe if you’ve got 10 dudes over at your house for a fantasy football draft and you’re pretty sure you’ll slice a throat if someone asks for the 12-digit Wi-Fi password again.)

But there’s also a darker potential underlying Hotspotio’s favor-based system. “Can you do me a favor?” is code for, “I’m about to test the bonds of our friendship for my own personal gain.” Favors get you into jams ranging from rides to the airport and dog-sitting to the most offensive request a first-world human can ask another: “Can you help me move?”

Of course, Hotspotio is probably just a way for nice people to share their Wi-Fi. Then again, TINSTAAFL.  (Available now on Google Play!)

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.

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