Sunday, November 05, 2006

I am a Linus Fonero

A few days ago, it was Freedom Friday in San Francisco. The FON guys were giving away their routers for free. Good marketing stunt. At least, it attracted my attention... What is FON?

FON is the largest WiFi community in the world. Our members share their wireless Internet access at home and, in return, enjoy free WiFi wherever they find another Fonero’s Access Point.

It all started as a simple idea. Why should you pay for Internet access on the go when you have already paid for it at home? Exactly, you shouldn’t. So we decided to help create a community of people who get more out of their connection through sharing.

I love communities and this one looked interesting. I just need La Fonera router in my house, I offer Wi-Fi to people passing by (I got plenty of bandwidth I do not use, and you can limit the public one) and I get free access to any other Fonera on the planet (here you have the map, check your town, there are even five in Pavia, Italy). I have been preaching to my daughter about the value of sharing. THIS is sharing. And I have the feeling I am getting back way more than I give, which is my favorite sharing :-)

How do they make money? If you are just passing by and you do not own and share a Fonero router, you pay. Just 3 dollars per day. FON takes it, or shares with you as a Fonero owner. Yep, you can make money with this... There are three kind of Foneros: Alien (do not own a router, just suck your network paying), Linus (sharing the router and accessing every other router for free) and Bill (making money from sharing their router).

What do you guess did I choose between Linus and Bill?

Correct answer ;-) I bought the router online (for five dollars five), plugged in and I am good to go. I have two networks, one private and one public. I can even give free access to five friends (even if they are not Foneros).
Move fast, because the price will raise to 29.95 on Wednesday.

This is a nice community, backed by good money (sorry, I live in Silicon Valley, communities are cool but when Index Ventures and Sequoia are involved, they grow faster. See Skype, Google, YouTube and so on). It is a big play and very challenging, but if it takes off, it might be huge.

One issue for them to solve: how do you get access to the FON Maps when you are traveling and you do not have access to your computer (since you first need to find another Fonero...)? You need it on your mobile, possibly with GPS and directions on where the closest active one is. I am sure our community can help here... FONambol anyone?