Discover, Connect, and Stay Connected: WiFi Map and Prepaid eSIM Plans

Connecting digital nomads globally: A journey into WiFi Map's success, its commitment to free WiFi and secure internet for all.

Published: Jun 19, 2023

wifi map

The concept of the “digital nomad” first began to be popularized in the 1990s, as laptops became accessible to a mass audience and the internet grew in importance as a means of exchanging information. As of 2023, it is estimated that there are 35 million digital nomads in the world, representing around 5% of the global population. 

Another phenomenon that has grown in popularity in recent years is the working holiday, or “workation”, so the actual number of people who use the internet for professional reasons while traveling is far higher, and goes well beyond the traditional business trip demographic.

There are thankfully many ways of getting online when you’re away from home nowadays. While it took some time – and many countries lagged notably behind the global average – WiFi is now close to being universal, and cellular network providers offer numerous options for people who don’t want to pay extortionate data roaming fees. Some providers offer options allowing users to take their home plan with them for a set daily fee, which could be in the $3–5 range. Others offer unlimited data in specific destinations, though this can cost closer to $50–100. 

Another option is the eSIM, or embedded SIM, which allows people with newer smartphones to essentially install a SIM card and enjoy data costs that compete with local SIM cards, but without the hassle of finding one after arrival at their destination.

A Web 2.0 success story

Unlike employees being sent away on old school business trips, travelers and digital nomads are probably going to be the ones paying for their travel. The cost of flights, accommodation and food all adds up, so any savings that can be made on mobile data are more than welcome. This is where WiFi Map comes in. The app has been around since 2014, and is a success story of the Web 2.0 era. You may not have heard of it yet, but rest assured that a large proportion of the people who’ve typed “free wifi” or “hotspot near me” into Google or an app store over the last decade have come across it. Thankfully, WiFi Map has what they’re looking for and more.

The core offering of the platform is a global network of easy-to-access public WiFi hotspots, with an incredible 10+ million WiFi points in cities and remote areas across 200 countries, available instantly and free of charge. Since it was created, people have connected to WiFi using WiFi Map more than 1 billion times, so it’s safe to say that the concept works and is able to serve a genuine connectivity need. 

The app was founded by Denis Sklyarov and Igor Goldenberg, who previously worked together at the award-winning mobile app development company Kenlo Group and bring expertise in software engineering as well as finance and trading. They traveled frequently for work at the time and were frustrated by the cost of data roaming and the difficulty in finding WiFi hotspots. It’s worth remembering that this was a time when smartphones were taking over the world and it was becoming an expectation of businesspeople to be contactable by email at all times. 

Inspired by message boards and other Web 2.0 platforms like Tripadvisor, where travelers were eager to share their experiences and recommend places with fast and easy-to-access WiFi, they decided to create a platform where people would be able to compile a database of hotspots in the most logical format – on a global map. Anybody can add a hotspot to WiFi Map anywhere in the world, after which it is added to the database, verified by the community and made available for everyone on the platform to access. 

WiFi Map grew organically and, within a year or two, rapidly. Without investing in traditional advertising, the founders have now achieved over 160 million downloads and 4 million monthly active users. Those people seem to be satisfied too, given that the app has achieved an average rating of 4.5 stars in Google Play based on over 2 million reviews, and 4.6 in the App Store.

New technologies for a new era of connectivity

A slew of new features has been introduced in the years since the app was first launched, helping to improve WiFi Map’s utility and convenience. One of these is VPN protection, which allows users to browse the internet in confidence that their data will remain private. Another is offline maps, which makes it possible to find one of WiFi Map’s millions of free hotspots without an internet connection, saving even more data for users.

The team didn’t stop there, however. WiFi Map offers its own international eSIM plans which are created to help its users to save money at every step. This is the only app that allows people to purchase eSIM mobile data while also enjoying free offline access to millions of WiFi hotspots worldwide and, therefore, the option to switch out of cellular and save those precious megabytes.

While the specific use case that first inspired Sklyarov and Goldenberg was a business one, their underlying mission – and, perhaps, the reason for their success – is based on the idea that everybody needs the internet in the modern world. Yes, increasingly many of us use it to work, but the internet is also unavoidable for billions of people who want to fill out their taxes, apply for new jobs, look for a place to live and, of course, stay in touch with their friends and family.

A mission to connect the world

It seems hard to believe, but almost a third of the world’s population still doesn’t have a secure and stable internet connection. WiFi Map is working to reach them and, with the help of over 13 million people who have actively contributed to the platform by adding hotspots, it looks like it has the tools it needs to achieve this ambitious goal. By bringing together free WiFi, competitive international eSIM plans and VPN protection, WiFi Map has created an essential tool for travelers – and frankly, everybody – who need accessible, secure and stable internet. 

The mission isn’t stopping any time soon, with continued expansion of the eSIM offering and further price drops on the way, while the community of WiFi Map contributors is always adding new hotspots to the platform for everybody to use. If this positive feedback loop retains its momentum, everybody with a smartphone will know what WiFi Map is very soon.

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