Apparently, Facebook for Mobile has a feature where it can show open wi-fi networks near your current location. That would come in really handy on my travels! How can I find this Facebook feature and use it?
Your question about the Wi-Fi Near Me feature in Facebook reminds me of how Facebook today is rather like Microsoft Word. When it was first introduced “Multi-Tool Word” let you write letters and articles with some rudimentary formatting capabilities. Superscripts? Okay. Automatic indexing? Not yet, not for a while. Rewritten for the PC in late 1983, Word has since gained so many features and capabilities that today’s app has entire sections that 99% of users don’t even know about, let alone utilize.
Facebook is the same, with some surprising features that seem to be completely tangential to the main purpose of the site and service. One of these is Wi-Fi Finder, a map-based feature that’s buried pretty deep in the Facebook for Mobile interface and something I can’t even find on the Facebook Web interface. Is it useful? Yeah, probably, but as I’ll show in a bit, there are better tools that offer more data and don’t require any downloads or apps (and work on desktop computers and laptops too).
Where these tools shine isn’t just finding wi-fi options at your current location but allowing you to recenter the map and investigate other locations, like the area near a youth hostel you’re thinking of having as your base of operations for a trip or a tiny flyspeck of a town on your next long driving adventure…
FINDING THE WIFI MAP IN FACEBOOK FOR MOBILE
Jump onto Facebook for Mobile on your iPhone or Android phone and tap on your profile icon on the lower right corner. You’ll get to this view of the major Facebook features and settings:
You might have seen this screen before if you’ve explored Facebook at all. It’s definitely an easy way to jump to Groups or your Saved posts for later perusal, and you can see that my favorite groups are listed with shortcut icons too.
But what you seek is further down, so swipe up…
Now tap on “Settings & Privacy” to proceed, assuming you aren’t distracted by the $1500 VR headset…
Do you see the option? Yes, under “Settings & Privacy” is a link to “Find Wi-Fi“. Why it’s located here in the overall layout of all Facebook features suggests that it’s not really considered particularly important or valuable. Still, tap on it.
FIND WI-FI FEATURE IN FACEBOOK
Once you tap on the “Find Wi-Fi” link, you’ll find that you’re being shown a map – did you know Facebook had maps? – that shows known Wi-Fi hotspots near your current location. Well, let’s say Known to Facebook since that’ll be important when we view the alternative. I’m more curious about Wi-Fi hotspots near the intersection of Ken Pratt Blvd & Hover Road in Longmont, Colorado. That’s easily done by recentering the map, then tapping “Search Again”:
You can see it’s showing Texas Roadhouse, Red Lobster, First Watch, The Post Chicken & Beer, Kohl’s, and so on. The lower half shows the information on the venues including their operating hours, quite helpful. You can tap to get more details on a venue too, like Brewing Market Coffee Longmont:
Notice that it shows the wireless network name too, which is pretty cool. But there are other places in that map area that aren’t showing up, notably a Starbucks I frequent that’s adjacent to the Holiday Inn on this second map view. Starbucks, it seems, doesn’t make the cut with Facebook’s Wi-Fi maps, which begs the question of what else isn’t being shown?
GOOGLE MAPS AND “FREE WIFI NEAR ME”
Fortunately, the Google Maps team is endlessly adding interesting features and capabilities, and it turns out that a search for “free wifi near me” offers the same feature with a lot more matches:
I’ve moved the map center to the same intersection and notice now how it’s a much easier design to understand too, in addition to having so many more data points. Perhaps just as importantly, it includes Starbucks and, of course, offers more info on the venues with a tap. Not only that, but you can use the “Open now” shortcut to winnow out places that are closed if it’s late at night.
There are also lots of wifi mapping apps in both the iPhone App Store and the Android Play Store if you want to explore those options, but I find that Google Maps works just fine when I am searching and can’t find a convenient Starbucks!
Note: Interestingly, Apple Maps fails completely on a search for ‘wifi’, ‘free wifi’ or ‘wifi near me’. Apparently, they don’t envision the app being used for that task so it’s just not a recognized metasearch. Google: 1. Apple: 0.
I hope that will help you find the wifi hotspots near your location and keep you happily online. Good luck!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about the iPhone and Android since the very first devices was released. Please check out my iPhone help articles while you’re visiting. Thanks!