Call this a PSA of sorts.
I was searching the Rocket Yard Blog for a specific article on WiFi. Or was it wi-fi? Hmmm – maybe it was WIFI in all caps with no hyphen? Or Wi Fi, with a space? All lowercase with no space? Should it even matter? *sigh*
So, how do you correctly spell WiFi?
Well… that depends.
“Wi-Fi” is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, a network of companies that promotes wifi technologies and certifies products to make sure they conform to specific standards. So, if they’re the ones who oversee the adoption of this technology, then I guess the correct spelling of Wi-Fi is settled.
Well… not necessarily.
What is WiFi?
It really depends on how you use the term. When most of us say “wifi,” we are usually referring to a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network). “What’s your wifi password? Is there wifi at the hotel? Dude, my new refrigerator has wifi!” So, basically, we are way off the mark and have been using the wrong term for quite some time.
Why is that?
My theory is that once people started seeing the Wi-Fi certification logo on products, they just assumed the technology itself was called Wi-Fi. Which it isn’t. It’s the IEEE 802.11 family of standards. Plus, how the heck would you pronounce WLAN anyway? Wuh-Lan? Double-You-Lan? There could be wars the likes of how to correctly pronounce GIF.
But just as we tend to call all adhesive bandages “Band-Aids,” flying plastic discs “Frisbees,” and facial tissues “Kleenex,” society has usurped the Wi-Fi branded name. And they changed the spelling to “wifi” along the way. That’s probably a good thing because, as previously mentioned, “Wi-Fi” is trademarked. We wouldn’t want the wireless cops arresting little Johnny for an essay he wrote showing his grandmother how to connect to the internet so she can FaceTime him.
Time will tell
Remember when we had “e-mail?” Then for a while, it was “eMail.” Now we have “email.” The general consensus tends to drive rapid changes in a language like this. If you need proof of how the use of wi-fi vs. wifi has bourne out over time, look at this Google Trends chart going all the way back to 2004.
Does “wifi” radically taking the world by storm make it the correct spelling? I don’t really know, but it is how it’s commonly being spelled these days. At least when people are searching for it. And I guess that’s okay because it is a fairly new word – made up by the people, for the people.
Most online dictionaries, as well as the macOS dictionary, redirect “wifi” to “Wi-Fi.” Still, the unhyphenated version will likely be widely adopted as an accepted spelling before too long. The AP Stylebook already says it’s okay, so I think it’s time for me to ditch the hyphen unless it’s referring to the Wi-Fi Alliance. Because, well, it’s their name.
Incidentally, have you ever noticed that WiFi is not hyphenated in the Wi-Fi Alliance’s own logo? I’m just sayin…
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